But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.
Stealing is a crime, even if to obtain food when hungry. A man can beg or borrow food, if he has an emergency. Though men do not despise a thief for stealing food due to hunger, they will still punish him according to the law for violating the property rights of another person (Pr 6:30). If too proud to beg or borrow, then he will be reduced to servitude to restore the stolen goods and give proper compensation to their rightful owner.
This proverb is part of Solomon’s condemnation of adultery, for there is no justification for that heinous crime (Pr 6:27-35). Men may understand stealing due to hunger, but they will still require full restoration. But adultery cannot be understood! It cannot be undone by any amount of payment, and men do not understand such a criminal act, for it violates a man’s most intimate possession without any possibility of restoration or replacement.
Cavemen did not dream up property rights or the protection of property. The LORD God Jehovah of Israel laid down the law by writing in stone, “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex 20:15; Deut 5:19). When found, thieves had to restore the stolen goods and compensatory goods to the extent of two to seven times the amount stolen (Ex 22:1-15). If the thief could not pay, he was sold into slavery to clear his debts. So much for foolish debtor’s prisons!
How far did God’s laws go to protect property rights? If you found a thief in your house, you had the right to use lethal force and kill him. God understood the value of security at night and the rush of adrenalin at the intrusion of a thief in your house. However, if you found the thief selling your stuff the next day at a flea market, you could not exact physical revenge on him. He was merely to restore the stolen property (Ex 22:2-3).
Such restitution would reduce a nation’s prisons. If a thief cannot pay, sell him as a slave in the private sector. Thieves would not “pay their debt to society” by living in a warm dormitory, eating three meals a day, having proper clothes, and playing cards. They would quickly learn the value of property and freedom without any expense to taxpayers.
Property rights are not an invention of capitalism or political or economic theory. They are God’s revealed will and law for society. He protects your assets from others, who by envy or greed covet what is not theirs and will subtly or violently try to take yours. If you know this, then take care to protect others’ property, even more than your own (Gen 31:39; I Sam 25:14-16; Pr 16:11; 20:10,14,23; 22:28; 23:10; I Cor 6:7-8; Phil 2:4).
Dear reader, do you understand that adultery is much worse, for the damage done cannot be repaired, and the loss is far greater? So God required capital punishment for a sin that today is glamorized and protected (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24; Job 31:9-12; Heb 13:4). If the thought of a thief breaking into your house and taking your things is offensive, you should be much more offended and angry at any thoughts of adultery. Keep your heart with all diligence to despise and hate any fantasy to harm another marriage by adultery.
God compares His relationship to His people as a marriage, so He considers friendship you have with the world to be spiritual adultery (Jas 4:4). He hates the world, and the world hates Him, so your flirting with worldly friends, lifestyle, or philosophy is as abominable to Him as a wife making love to her husband’s enemy. Be faithful and loyal to Him alone today, letting Him know that you also hate the world and will not touch it.