Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Honest Work and Theft

Q. 73: Which is the eighth commandment?
Answer: The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.

Q. 74: What is required in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

Q. 75: What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbour's, wealth or outward estate. (WCF)

Near the beginning of the book of Proverbs, the reader is warned to hold back his foot from the way of robbery. Robbery promises quick rewards and an easy life, but in fact robbers “set an ambush for their own lives” (1:18). Mankind was created to work in order to help each other and to exercise dominion over the earth and make it fruitful (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:15, 3:16-19). But we are tempted to be slothful and take a short cut, being pseudo-productive by stealing, robbing, cheating, and defrauding others. But “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit” (Prov. 10:2) and “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death” (Prov. 21:6). Another way a person might defraud others is by failing to fulfill his obligations to them through idleness. But this way also leads downward, since “a slack hand causes poverty” (Prov. 10:4) and “he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (Prov. 10:5) and “the slothful will be put to forced labor” (Prov. 12:24).

Stealing is foolish, as the true way to prosperity is through diligent and wise work, not through violence or greedy schemes. Furthermore, stealing and fraudulent dealing is “an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 11:1). Stealing violates the stewardship God has given each man over his own property. Those who have stolen ought to give appropriate restitution (Lev. 6:1-5, Luke 19:8). If you find lost property, you ought to return it to its owner (Deut. 22:1-4). You are called to seek the good of others and to promote the common good. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:28, “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.” Rather than seeking unjust gain, you ought to be engaged in honest labor, for your own good and also for the good of others (1 Thess. 4:11-12, 2 Thess. 3:6-12, 1 Tim. 5:4-8, Col. 3:22-25). Scripture exhorts us to work with diligence, wisdom, skillfulness (Prov. 10:4-5, 22:29), as well as with faith in God for his provision (Matt. 6).

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