From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.
The eighth commandment requires us to act truthfully, faithfully, and justly in our contractual and business relationships with our fellow human beings so that we give to all what they deserve. We are to make restitution for anything we have unlawfully acquired from its rightful owner; we should give and lend freely, according to our ability and the needs of others; we must moderate our judgment, will, and inclinations about worldly goods; we must exercise prudence in the acquisition, maintenance, use, and disposition of the things that we need and are appropriate to sustain us humanly and that match our condition in life; we should find something lawful to do in life and work hard at it; we should be frugal; and we should avoid unnecessary lawsuits and should not become liable by putting up security for others or by similar commitments. Finally, we must do our best, by all just and lawful means, to acquire, preserve, and increase our own and others’ money and possessions. (The Westminster Larger Catechism)
This commandment is another reminder that God not only forbids sin in the Ten Commandments, but also issues requirements or duties. These commandments are not merely prohibitions against what may harm an individual person, but also what would damage a society if practiced by everyone. So too, the positive duty being prescribed would be a blessing to individuals and societies if put into practice. Of course, the primary reason to do or not do something is because God has commanded us to do or not do it. That’s all the reason we need.
The eighth commandment overlaps the following two as it connects with the honesty prescribed in the ninth commandment and the contentment prescribed in the tenth. Stealing begins in the heart. We see something we want so much that we are willing to sin to obtain it. We are not content with what we have in life, with what God has provided us, and it so consumes us that we are willing to violate God’s will for our lives to have it. That’s the danger of a covetous heart.
Stealing not only takes the private property of another person; it does not take into consideration unintended consequences. For example, stealing a car may create an obstacle to a person’s only means of getting to work to support his or her family. Stealing one’s identification may create a scenario in which a person loses the ability to open a bank account or get a loan. A stolen idea may be the reason an employee loses out on a promotion in the workplace. Each of these consequences are the result of a person’s covetous desire run amuck.
Each of the catechetical quotations above give us a brief, yet thorough glimpse of what God expects from us. To not steal means so much more than to not take property from our neighbor, but to also have their best interest at heart, so much so, that you look for ways to help them out. We wink at phrases such as, “let the buyer beware,” but this commandment would warn against any form of dishonest business dealings. This lesson will help us explore all the different ways in which God calls us to act justly and honestly in our everyday lives.
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