Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone 10.18.12
Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012 9:14 pm
By Wally Bumpas
The Eighth Commandment says, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). Finally, in our studies through the Ten Commandments, we can take a breather. “I’m not a bank robber or a burglar or an embezzler or a used car salesman or an IRS agent. I’m not a thief.” So we reason, without really thinking. This is why the creeds and confessions of the Church are so important in opening up the Ten Commandments. Our Heidelberg Catechism addresses the Eighth Commandment as follows:
Question 110 asks: What does God forbid in the Eighth Commandment? Answer: He forbids not only outright theft and robbery, punishable by law. But in God’s sight theft also includes cheating and swindling our neighbor by schemes made to appear legitimate, such as: inaccurate measures of weight, size or volume; fraudulent merchandising; counterfeit money; excessive interest; or any other means forbidden by God. In addition He forbids all greed and pointless squandering of His gifts.
Question 111 continues: What does God require of you in this commandment?
Answer: That I do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good, that I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.
The air drops out of our self-righteous sails as we realize the whole of the Christian life, almost, can be discussed under the Eighth Commandment! Especially as we think of what the Eighth Commandment requires. Jesus summed up the Old Testament in calling us to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). He said we’re to treat others as we would have them treat us (Matthew 7:12). This “golden rule” is all many people know of religion or the Bible. And it can rightly come under the heading of the Eighth Commandment.
To steal is to take what doesn’t lawfully belong to me. There are ten thousand ways we can do this without it ever crossing our minds that we are thieves. If I don’t do my best at work, if I’m a slacker even for a minute, then I am stealing part of my paycheck.
Notice our catechism introduces the word “greed.” Oh my! Of course greed underlies stealing. I want it now, and if I can get it without working or without paying, I will. The Eighth Commandment opens up fallen human nature in quite a nasty way. It opens up a whole world of depravity and vice and cheating (much of it legal).
Also notice how the answer to the first question above talks about cutting legal corners to make money (steal it). It is astonishing and frightening to see how much the Bible has to say about money, no doubt because it is the first and easiest thing to make into an idol. Put that together with greed and what do you get? You get the American consumer economy. Dorothy Sayers once said that if greed stopped, our economy would collapse overnight (she was writing in England in the 1940’s). Suffice it to say that applications of the Eighth Commandment reach deep, far and wide, going far beyond personal morality. And, suffice it to say, you and I break the Eighth Commandment.
Paul captured the spirit of the commandment when he said, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28).
And when would a thief, or a lazy man, ever want to do that? Only when his heart has been set on treasure that will last. That treasure is Jesus. When our sight is set on an inheritance “that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4), then this world’s treasures (and the need to steal them) will gradually fade.
Editor’s note: Wally Bumpas serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Dyersburg.
Published in The Messenger 10.18.12