For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matthew 15:19, NKJV)
Jesus continues to discuss the fact that sin proceeds from the heart by taking note of the sins of “thefts” and “false witness.” The first word discusses stealing material property, while the second describes false testimony that steals a person’s good name. Thievery takes any number of forms, including pilfering, extortion, shoplifting, robbery and pillage (Titus 2:10; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 11:26; Nahum 3:1). An honest heart refuses to take that which does not belong to it. And, it is precisely such honesty of heart that refuses to tell a lie about another person. Lies not only cover up for one’s evil motives and actions, they do so at the expense of others. The “lying tongue” and “a false witness who speaks lies” are abominations to God (Proverbs 6:17-19). False witnesses led to the murder of Jesus and Stephen (Matthew 26:59-61; Acts 6:13-14). Stealing and lying takes advantage of others. Loving our neighbors and treating them like we want to be treated helps us treat others with integrity and decency. Respecting the rights and property of others is a hedge against these sins of dishonesty.
37 Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37–39, NKJV)
Lying, cheating and stealing are widespread in America and around the world. Over one-half of 2012 American high school students surveyed admitted cheating on an exam, 55% to lying to a teacher, and 20% to stealing (2012 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth). At the same time, “99 percent agree that “it is important for me to be a person with good character” (Ibid). Their challenge (and ours) is a total commitment to honesty and integrity. The Bible is clear on this matter. Lying, stealing and cheating are sins against God and against one’s neighbor. Stealing is sin: “Let him who stole steal no more” (Eph. 4:28). Lying is sin: “Put away lying, ‘let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor’” (Eph. 4:25). Cheating is sin: “You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him” (Lev. 19:13; Prov. 11:1). So, when we lie, cheat and steal we are not loving of God and we are not loving our neighbor. Commit yourself to loving God and others by being honest in your every word and deed.