Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March 31- Do Not Steal

[Geneva in Calvin’s Day. John Knox said Geneva was "the most perfect school of Christ that ever was on earth since the days of the apostles." Crime went down in Geneva as the Reformation took hold.]

3/31- Eighth Commandment
19 "You shall not steal.

Calvin: The purpose of this commandment is: since injustice is an abomination to
God, we should render to each man what belongs to him [Romans 13:7]. To sum up: we are forbidden to pant after the possessions of others, and consequently are commanded to strive faithfully to help every man to keep his own possessions. Let us remember that all those arts whereby we acquire the possessions and money of our
neighbors — when such devices depart from sincere affection to a desire to
cheat or in some manner to harm — are to be considered as thefts. Let this be our constant aim: faithfully to help all men by our counsel and aid to keep what is theirs, in so far as we can;

Calvin brought this commandment down to our level. “Thou shalt not steal” was not just about larceny, cheating on tests or bribes. Calvin saw this commandment forbidding greed and taking things from others in an injust way. Calvin also saw this commandment as forbidding the rich to take from the poor in courts because the rich could afford better legal counsel. There are thefts by violence, fraud, legal craft, and by the flattering pretense of a gift. Maybe today we might add that the government should not take private property for only a small percentage owed to that government!
He also saw a positive side to this commandment in various ways. That is, we should help people keep what they have. In our day, when so many are losing everything, this is so important. If the government is doing what it can to keep up the banks, the banks should also do what they can to keep people from defaulting on their loans. Credit cards going to high interest rates and cancelling the ability to lower the interest rates on other cards are examples. Payday lenders who take away paychecks, car title lenders who threaten to take away a person’s transportation at rates of 500% (S.C.), should be fought against. When people who have money and power are greedy, it hurts all of us. Bernie Madoff is a prime example of a person promising (and wanting) extravagant rates but being overwhelmed by his own greed. The church should be a bastion against greed in government and business. But because the church has a human side, it too can be greedy at times.
Churches and Christians need to hear this word against greed and take note. As Christians, we should actively look for those who are losing everything and try to help them in their time of need. In our day, it is easier to find people in need than at other times.

Prayer: God, thank you for what you have given us. Help us to be content with our lot in life. Help us also to do the best we can with what we have. Give us eyes of compassion on the needy and poor.

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