Not every sin brings the same penalty, but those which are easiest to be amended bring upon us the greatest punishment. Solomon indeed intimated this when he said, “It is not wonderful if anyone be taken while stealing, for he steals that he may satisfy his soul that is hungry, but the adulterer by lack of understanding destroys his own soul.” But what he means is to this effect. The thief is a grievous offender, but not so grievous a one as the adulterer. For the former, though he has a sorry reason for his conduct, yet at the same time has to plead the necessity arising from indigence. But the latter, when no necessity compels him, by his mere madness rushes into the abyss of iniquity.
If slaves are thieves, they are perhaps forced to steal through want. Even though the customary allowances are given, these allowances satisfy custom rather than sufficiency and thus fulfill the law without fulfilling the need. Their indulgence makes their fault less blameworthy, because the guilt of the thief who is unwillingly forced into theft is excusable. Holy Scripture seems to excuse in part the offense of the needy when it says, “The fault is not so great when a man has stolen, for he steals to feed his hungry soul.”