World Scripture


Theft means to take property that belongs to another or to the public. It encompasses fraud, usury, extortion, and dishonest trading.

You shall not steal.

1. Judaism and Christianity. Exodus 20.15

Where you did not sow, do not reap.

2. African Traditional Religions. Igala Proverb (Nigeria)

Because what is yours is not yours, how then can you regard what is not yours as yours?

3. Judaism. Talmud, Derek Eretz Zuta 2.5

To take to oneself unrighteous wealth is like satisfying one's hunger with putrid food, or one's thirst with poison wine. It gives a temporary relief, indeed, but death also follows it.

4. Taoism. Treatise on Response and Retribution 5

The wickedness of evil-minded thieves, who secretly prowl over this earth, cannot be restrained except by punishment.

5. Hinduism. Laws of Manu 9.263

As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from God.

6. Islam. Qur'an 5.38

Lo! those who devour the wealth of orphans wrongfully, they do but swallow fire into their bellies, and they will be exposed to burning flame.

7. Islam. Qur'an 4.10

Says Nanak, "To grasp what is another's is as evil
As pig's flesh to the Muslim and cow's flesh to the Hindu.
The Teacher shall intercede for his follower
Only when he has not eaten carrion."

8. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Var Majh, M.1, p. 141

Derek Eretz Zuta 2.5: Even one's own possessions are 'not yours' because they belong to God; we have been given them as a trust. Var Majh, M.1: 'Carrion' refers to ill-gotten gains.

These acts are included in stealing: prompting another to steal, receiving stolen goods, creating confusion to overcharge or underpay, using false weights and measures, and deceiving others with artificial or imitation goods.

9. Jainism. Akalanka, Tattvartharajavartika 7.27

Woe unto the defrauders,
Those who when they take the measure from mankind demand it full,
But if they measure unto them or weigh for them, they cause them loss.

10. Islam. Qur'an 83.1-3

Whoever steals what is considered to belong to others, whether it be situated in villages or the forest, he is to be known as an outcast.

Whoever having contracted debts defaults when asked to pay, retorts, "I am not indebted to you!," he is to be known as an outcast.

Whoever is desirous of stealing even a trifle and mugs a person going along the road in order to take it, he is to be known as an outcast.

11. Buddhism. Sutta Nipata 119-21

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy,
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
saying, "When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and sell the refuse of the wheat?"
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob,
"Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and every one mourn who dwells in it?"

12. Judaism and Christianity. Amos 8.4-8

[Evil-doers] impoverish others for their own gain.
For private ends they neglect public duties.
They break into others' houses to take their property and valuables.
They misdirect the water and light fires to destroy the people's homes.
They upset others' plans so as to prevent their success.
They spoil a worker's utensils to hamper his efficiency.
With violence they seize, with violence they demand.
They delight in fraud, they delight in robbery, they make raids and commit depredations to get rich.
They shorten the foot, they narrow the measure,
they lighten the scales, they reduce the peck.
They adulterate the genuine, and they seek profit in illegitimate business.

13. Taoism. Treatise on Response and Retribution

O ye who believe! Devour not usury, doubling and quadrupling [the sum lent].

14. Islam. Qur'an 3.130

If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him.

15. Judaism and Christianity. Exodus 22.25

Do not men despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry?

16. Judaism and Christianity. Proverbs 6.30-31

Qur'an 3.130: All modern societies agree that usury, when it is understood to mean charging exorbitant interest, 'doubling and quadrupling,' is an evil whose prohibition is consistent with sound economics. But the absolute proscription of usury, when it is understood as prohibiting loaning money for any amount of interest whatsoever, has always proved difficult to practice in a mercantile economy. In the Islamic tradition, the wealthy will often make personal loans at no interest to those in need as a form of charity, but this does not apply to loans for business. Where there is a need to raise capital, either by entrepreneurs or by the state, loans are required, and people with capital will lend it only at a price. Therefore, both Christian and Muslim societies that have tried to enforce this prohibition have often winked at loopholes. One typical loophole is to permit loans from nonbelievers. Thus in Medieval Europe Jewish bankers were the accepted creditors for Christians, and today Western banks are often permitted to lend money in Islamic nations. Today, Islamic banks are developing new policies consistent with the Qur'an. Most notable of these is investment as profit sharing. Banks will lend to entrepreneurs in return for a percentage of the profits rather than for a fixed rate of interest. The bank then prospers as the business succeeds, but makes nothing should it fall into the red. Exodus 22.25: Lending at interest is prohibited specifically in the case where the borrower is poor. Cf. Exodus Rabbah 31.15, p. 177. Proverbs 6.30-31: In traditional Roman Catholic moral teaching, when a person is in dire need he may be justified in stealing food to keep from starving. In that case, food is regarded as 'common property.' Cf. Chuang Tzu 25, p. 1070.