Most everyone will recognize that the above statement represents one of the commandments of the Decalogue. However, few have taken the time to probe this divine law beyond its literal and obvious meaning.
The Ten Commandments, in fact, contain three distinct levels of meaning. Take the issue of theft (the seventh commandment) as our example. There are three levels of stealing. We can steal physical things, psychical things, and even divine things.
If the commandments were only to be taken literally then a mother stealing bread for her hungry children would be eternally damned to hell. Many of us correctly sense that this would be an injustice coming from a God of Infinite Love and Mercy. So there must be more damning ways to steal that would justify separation from God.
Because all humans are spirits living in physical bodies, God’s commandments were wisely designed to guide our physical and spiritual realities. We can become spiritual thieves by robbing people of the means to salvation—either by distorting God’s teachings or even persuading other people that God’s laws are meaningless.
On the highest level of thievery, one can steal from the Lord. This stealing involves taking God’s power and claiming it for oneself. (We certainly experience individuals who try to act like God in the world through their dominance, possessions and imagined self-worth.)
But each form of stealing also depends on the motive within one’s heart. One could even steal someone else’s bread from a principle of contempt and hatred for others as well as contempt for God (and what God stands for). So one can steal physical bread and practice thievery on all three levels!
This is why the Lord said that loving God and love towards the neighbor contain everything relating to all Ten Commandments. One does not wish to steal or do ill (on any level) when one sincerely loves God and the neighbor.