Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
What is the Seventh Commandment?
You shall not steal.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor's money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.
Concordia: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord summarizes Luther's Large Catechism well:
Stealing is not only physically robbing another's possessions, but it is also taking advantage of other people. Luther was very concerned about unjust business practices. His comments particularly challenge us today, since we live in a culture built on a free-market economy and generally agree that any price charged to people is morally acceptable. On the other hand, Luther points out how working people also steal from their employers by not giving a full day's work for a full day's pay. Though written over 475 years ago, Luther's comments on the Seventh Commandment are amazingly relevant and timely, and they point out the biblical distinction between the two kingdoms. For example, toward the end of the discussion, Luther wisely notes that the duty of the Church is to reprove sin and teach the Word of God. It is the duty of governing authorities to restrain lawlessness. The Church, as a spiritual institution, does not order society or enact societal laws; this is solely the duty of the government (p. 384).
Luther summarizes his thoughts in the Large Catechism with these words:
Therefore, let everyone know his duty, at the risk of God's displeasure: he must do no harm to his neighbor nor deprive him of profit nor commit any act of unfaithfulness or hatred in any bargain or trade. But he must also faithfully preserve his property for him, secure and promote his advantage (LC, I, 233).
Clearly, the Seventh Commandment forces the Christian to look toward the good of others, sometimes the most difficult thing to do.
So, how do you know if you have sinned against the Seventh Commandment? Begin by asking yourself these questions:
- Have I gotten anything in a dishonest way?
- Have I made illegal copies of any printed material, audio or video tapes, or computer programs?
- Do I faithfully attend to the responsibilities of my vocation(s)? Have I been lazy at work, doing poor work in school or at my job, or working hard only when the teacher or boss is around?
- Do I take care of what I haven, pay what I owe, return what I borrow, and respect other people's property?
- Do I given generously, or am I selfish, stingy and greedy with my time and money? Have I been stingy in paying my workers?
What do you do now? It's simple. Confess. And receive the forgiveness that is yours in Christ Jesus. Amen.