Christian Biblical Counsel: STEALING


Catch the Thief Hiding in Your Heart

by June Hunt

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

(Ephesians 4:28)


A. What Is Stealing?

•     Stealing means to take without right or permission that which belongs to another.

—  money

—  time

—  words

—  reputation

—  ideas

—  resources

—  things

—  trust

—  identity

•     Stealing can also mean to keep others from receiving what is rightfully theirs.

—  withholding wages

—  withholding time

—  withholding profit

—  withholding recognition

—  withholding payment (i.e., alimony, credit card)

“One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.”

(Proverbs 11:24)

•     Stealing is probably the most common crime in society.

•     Stealing is an umbrella word for various forms of theft:



stealing small   quantities and insignificant items




stealing   displayed goods from a store while pretending to be a customer




misappropriating   money or property entrusted to one’s care




obtaining   money or property by deceit or trickery




taking wrongly   from another by threats, force or abuse of authority




legal term   used for an act of theft




to seize and   detain for ransom




to deprive by   trickery




to use and   pass off another’s work as one’s own




unlawfully   taking the property of another by the use of violence or intimidation




entering a   building or other premises with the intent to commit theft




making   defamatory statements injurious to the reputation or well-being of a person


•     Stealing is forbidden by God in the Ten Commandments.

“You shall not steal.” (Deuteronomy 5:19)

Question: “What is kleptomania?”

Answer: Kleptomania is the recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal unneeded items, accompanied by subjective tension before and emotional reward after the theft. Kleptomania is not motivated by anger, vengeance, delusion or another disorder.

—  The English word “kleptomania” is made up of the two Greek words klepto, which means “to steal,” and mania, which means “madness.”

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19)

B. What Does God Say about Stealing

•     If you steal, you break one of God’s commandments.

“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)

•     Stealing is contrary to God’s nature and the order that He created. If you are a Christian, you are not to be a thief because Christ, who lives in you, is not a thief.

“Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ ” (1 Peter 1:15–16)

•     If you steal, you must make restitution beyond the initial value.

“If the stolen animal is found alive in his possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—he must pay back double.” (Exodus 22:4)

•     If you cannot make restitution, you should work for the one you have wronged until the debt is paid.

“A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft.” (Exodus 22:3)

•     If something you borrow is damaged, lost or stolen, you should pay for it.

“If a man borrows an animal from his neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, he must make restitution.” (Exodus 22:14)

•     If you find an item and do not try to locate its owner, you are stealing.

“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him.” (Exodus 23:4)

•     If you steal, it breaks God’s heart because it breaks the law of love.

“The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:9–10)

Question: “What is a copyright? When is it wrong for me to copy other material?”

Answer: A copyright is the exclusive legal right of the originator to control the use or sale of a work. Unless the copyright owner gives permission or the work goes out of copyright after a certain number of years, it is illegal to copy the work. To copy any copyrighted work without permission is stealing.

“A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.” (Proverbs 21:6)

Question: “When is it wrong to put someone else’s material in my paper? Is it plagiarism if I paraphrase someone rather than quote them directly?”

Answer: If you use what someone else has written and present it as your own, whether it is an exact quotation or a paraphrase, it is considered plagiarism. This is an infringement of copyright and is stealing.

You are permitted to quote other sources for review, criticism or to illustrate or support your own points, but care must be taken to quote accurately, in context and to give credit for sources.

“The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.” (Proverbs 21:8)



Kinds of Thieves

Taking anything that is not yours, no matter how insignificant

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)

Hoarding belongings and supplies

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17)

Imposing on another’s generosity

“The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” (Psalm 37:21)

Evading prompt payment of debts

“Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow’—when you now have it with you.” (Proverbs 3:28)

Violating a personal “honor system”

“Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (Romans 13:5)

Extortion of others in order to “save a dollar”

“He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.” (Proverbs 22:16)

Serving the god of materialism

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”

(Proverbs 16:2)

Question: “What is identity theft?”

Answer: Identity theft occurs when someone assumes your name and adopts your personal information, including your credit record in order to commit fraud or theft by using your name or reputation.

By stealing your name, social security number, bank and credit card numbers, identity thieves are able to charge to your credit or debit cards, open a bank account and write bad checks, file for bankruptcy, and drain your bank account—all in your name. They can even give your name to police when arrested, implicating you as a criminal.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)

Question: “How do I avoid identity theft?”

Answer: While you can’t prevent identity theft entirely, you can minimize your risk by …

—  Periodically order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus to verify that it is accurate.

—  Place passwords that are difficult to guess on your credit card, bank and phone accounts.

—  Safeguard personal information in your home.

—  Guard your mail and trash from theft of personal information.

—  Give your social security number only when absolutely necessary.

—  Use a secure Internet browser for online transactions.

—  Try not to store financial information on your computer unless it has a complex password.

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3)



A. Search for Significance

Stemming from: Low self-worth

Resulting in: Greed

Grasping for worldly success (materialism)

Rationalizing that you deserve more than you have

Envying the possessions of others

Expecting fulfillment from possessions

Desiring to “outsmart” others at their expense

“Do not trust in extortion or take pride in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.”

(Psalm 62:10)

B. Search for Security

Stemming from: Insecurity

Resulting in: Fear

Failing to trust God

Endeavoring to be free of worry

Allowing peer pressure to have too much influence

Relying on possessions to provide a sense of well-being

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:19)

C. Root Cause

The most famous thief in existence was not a bank thief or a museum thief, but a thief who lived 2000 years ago—the repentant thief on a cross alongside Jesus.

Jesus knew this thief had truly humbled his heart and needed salvation. We all need to be saved. Salvation is found only in Jesus, the Savior, who offers us full forgiveness for our sins.

Salvation Prayer

God, I admit   I’ve done a lot of wrong things in my life. I confess I’ve gone my own way in   my own strength. Please forgive me for all my sins. Jesus, thank You for   dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Please come into my life   to be my Lord and Savior. I give You control of my life. Change me inside out   and make me the person You want me to be. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.


Wrong Belief:

“I find myself stealing because taking something from another is not really so bad—no one will ever know.”

Right Belief:

God knows everything and promises to meet all my needs. I will rely on Jesus to meet my inner need for significance and security. Because Christ lives in me, I can die to my selfish desires and live His life of integrity.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)



A. Key Verse to Memorize

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be

trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with

very little will also be dishonest with much.”

(Luke 16:10)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Titus 2:6–12

Be a Living Testimony of Trustworthiness

•     Be self-controlled.


v.   6


•     Be a good example to others.


v.   7


•     Be a person of integrity.


v.   7


•     Be honest in all you say.


v.   8


•     Be above reproach.


v.   8


•     Be submissive to authorities.


v.   9


•     Be a person who can be trusted.


v.   10


•     Be reliant on God’s grace.


v.   11


•     Be able to say no to ungodliness.


v.   12


•     Be able to say no to worldly desires.


v.   12


C. Checklist for Stealing

•     Stealing from the government

—  Have I claimed an invalid deduction on my income tax return?

—  Have I neglected to report cash income on my tax return?

—  Have I bought personal items with a tax exempt number?

—  Have I hidden items bought out of the country to avoid paying duty?

“He said to them, ‘Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ ” (Luke 20:25)

•     Stealing from the office

—  Have I taken office supplies and postage for personal use?

—  Have I taken a friend to lunch on a business expense account?

—  Have I charged personal items to the company?

—  Have I used the copier without paying for personal copies?

—  Have I charged personal phone calls?

—  Have I come in late, left early, called in sick when I wasn’t, wasted time?

“It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)

•     Stealing from other businesses

—  Have I kept an overpayment?

—  Have I falsified insurance claims?

—  Have I violated copyright laws?

—  Have I taken more than my share of free items and promotional giveaways?

—  Have I pilfered food supplies from a restaurant?

“Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel.” (Proverbs 20:17)

•     Stealing from relatives and friends

—  Have I taken food without permission?

—  Have I taken money without permission?

—  Have I not returned borrowed items?

—  Have I borrowed cars and not filled the gas tank?

—  Have I borrowed clothes and failed to return them clean?

—  Have I taken another’s time needlessly?

“We are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” (2 Corinthians 8:21)

•     Stealing from God

—  Have I withheld my tithe?

—  Have I failed to serve God with my talents?

—  Have I failed to give my time to God in service?

—  Have I robbed God of personal time with Him?

—  Have I forgotten to honor God and give Him the glory?

“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.” (Malachi 3:8) (Read vs. 8–18.)

D. Alibis and Answers


“This will never be noticed or missed.”


Even if you fool people, you can’t fool God.

“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3)

Question: “Can I download music off the Internet? Everybody does it, and music in the stores is way overpriced.”

Answer: While listening to music or watching video recordings on the Internet is permitted within applicable laws, copying that music or video violates the artist’s ownership rights, deprives the artist of revenue and undercuts the market value of his work.

It is true that copying off the Internet is widespread. Although it is a common crime, it is still illegal.


“I really don’t want to be involved in stealing, but I don’t want to lose my friend’s approval.”


I am to live for God’s approval, not for the approval of people.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)


“This is not really dishonest because they owe it to me.”


I owe it to others to always do what is most honorable and loving.

“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)


“Everybody steals.”


Not everybody steals.

“Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’ ” (Acts 5:29)


“This is just the way the system operates.”


Stealing is not the way God operates.

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a ‘fool’ so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness.’ ” (1 Corinthians 3:18–19)


“Once I get to the top, I will change my behavior.”


I need to change my thinking (values); then my behavior will change.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)


“If I can get ‘extra’ money, I’ll be able to give more to God.”


God doesn’t want stolen money—He wants a contrite heart.

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:6–8)


“This will get me more cash to give to others.”


God cares more about my character than my charity.

“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:2–3)

E. How to “Catch the Thief” in Your Heart

•     Denounce wilful ingnorance and seek to understand God’s standards on stealing.

“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)

•     Admit that your heart is deceitful, and ask God to reveal the ways in which you steal.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)

•     Make a commitment to be totally honest, no matter the consequence, and confess any habits of stealing to a friend who will hold you accountable.

“Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.” (Proverbs 10:2)

•     Know that everything you do is seen by the eyes of a loving God.

“For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths.” (Proverbs 5:21)

•     Think and pray before acting to make sure you are not rationalizing.

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:2)

•     Be sensitive and accountable to the Spirit of Christ within you.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)

•     Make restitution when you realize you have defrauded someone.

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ ” (Luke 19:8)

•     Accept the forgiveness of God and continue to grow in Christlikeness.

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)

F.  To Catch a “Little Thief”

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

(Proverbs 22:6)

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”

(Proverbs 22:15)

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.”

(Proverbs 23:13)

“The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.”

(Proverbs 29:15)

Ten Guidelines for Parents

#1    Pray for discernment and wisdom when confronting the child.

#2    Be sure of your information and facts.

#3    Meet with the child in privacy.

#4    Begin by assuring your love for the child.

#5    Offer an opportunity for a confession by the child.

#6    If the child doesn’t confess, confront with love and concern.

—  Encourage the child to tell the reason for taking something that did not belong to him or her.

—  Appeal to the child’s conscience.

a.   “How would you like for someone to steal from you?”

b.   “How do you think God feels about stealing?”

#7    Have the child return the item and give something extra to the rightful owner.

#8    Give an example of an apology the child can say,

—  “It was wrong of me to take this (name of item) which belongs to you. I want to return it and ask for your forgiveness.”

#9    Ask the child, “What will you do the next time you are tempted to steal?”

#10  Set boundaries and consequences for possible dishonesty in the future.

You   have truth, trust, and integrity when you have Christ living inside you.   Thus, when you steal from others, you steal from yourself the very character   of Christ.

June   Hunt



Selected Bibliography

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed., Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Federal Trade Commission. ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name. Washington, DC: Federal Trade Commission, 2002.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Kelfer, Russell. The Issue of Integrity. San Antonio, TX: Discipleship Tape Ministries, 2002.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.

United States Copyright Office. Copyright Basics. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 2002.

White, Jerry E. Honesty, Morality & Conscience. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1978.[1]


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Stealing: Catch the Thief Hiding in Your Heart (1–14). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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