Thou shalt not steal.
Exodus 20:15 (KJV)
Don’t steal – That’s pretty straight forward right? Just don’t steal. Unfortunately there’s a number of other factors involved with this commandment; socioeconomic status, peer influence, self-perception, psychology, etc. Just take a look at this video from Dan Ariely.
Dan Ariely is a researcher of behavioral economics and author of the book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. In this video, Dan talks about his behavioral tests of cheating and stealing, and digs into the reasons behind people’s choices.
Significant minute mark breakdowns in the video
7:00 – We all want to maintain a good perception of ourselves. A little cheating appears to be allowed.
Isn’t that interesting? It appears we naturally allow for some bit of cheating in our lives. Could this stem from the fact that most of us, including the majority of Christians, no longer value the law of God? We don’t really see God enact immediate punishment for those who break the law, so why should we abide by it?
7:55 – People who tried to recall the 10 commandments didn’t cheat in the test.
8:13 – Even self-declared atheists who were given a Bible to swear on didn’t cheat at all.
These two points were fascinating. Just thinking about the law caused people NOT to cheat. And this wasn’t a matter of those who could remember more laws cheated less than the ones who remember just a little. In Dan’s tests, none of them remembered any of the 10 commandments. Pretty sad. But just thinking about them caused them not to cheat. Now think about all the schools and courts that have removed the 10 commandments from their walls — and then wonder to yourself why our schools and crime rates are getting worse.
I mean, come on! Even atheists stopped cheating when thinking about the Bible. So whether or not you believe in the Bible, or God — just having it around or in thoughts prevented people from cheating or stealing 100% of the time, according to Dan’s tests.
9:24 –Rather than awarding people with actual money, he awards them with tokens which can later be changed for currency. This justified people’s decisions to cheat more.
The subjects doubled their cheating if they were awarded something 1-step-removed from currency. He related this to the difference between taking a pencil home from work, or taking 10 cents from the petty cash box. Both of those are equal in costs, but somehow feel very different.
This is how values and morals are compromised — a little here and a little there. Well it’s not like I’m stealing money, you might say.
10:55 – When someone who represents your community cheats and is rewarded, it becomes more acceptable. When someone who represents an opposing community does it, it appears less acceptable.
Let that sink in a bit. When you view someone in your community do something unacceptable and be rewarded for it, it provokes that repeated action among others.
When the laws are not held as the authority and the norm, then the norms of the group take precedence. It’s what the group does that becomes the acceptable way of doing things, not the law, not God. Do you see this happening in your community?
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. (Hosea 4:6)