In this commandment, the most obvious sins are committed by few of us. Not many of us make their living as thieves. So it is easy in our society to believe that we have not broken this commandment of God.
This commandment is also broken when people overcharge for goods or services. It is not fair to the one who buys that they have to pay more than is reasonable. The poor often have to do without because of the steep profit margin put on many basic goods and services. But the merchant often does not care, as long as his bottom line is to his liking.
Similarly, if a worker only puts in half-hearted efforts for the wage he earns, then that is stealing as well. He is being paid a certain amount with the expectation that he will give a fair amount of work in exchange. But how often these days do we find lazy workers who only expend energy when the boss is around?
A careless person, whether an employee or not, can also cause great damage and cost someone much money. If my carelessness destroys the property of someone else, I should at least have the decency to pay him for the damages. But often, damage is done and no one owns up to it.
This commandment is often broken by little thefts. Stealing office equipment, for instance, is a socially acceptable thing in many circles. People often console their conscience with the idea that it is a big corporation, so it can absorb those losses easily. Or they might say that it is only a small amount, so it is not really stealing. But any amount of theft shows a basic disrespect for the property of others. Some people act as if they should have the right to take anything they want, any time they want it, simply by the right of their desire.
We may break this commandment by lying to the IRS or others to get us a financial advantage. Conveniently forgetting certain facts when filling out forms may save us significant dollars. This kind of dishonesty is easy to rationalize, yet it breaks both the Eighth Commandment as well as the Seventh Commandment at the same time.
There is also a kind of laziness in our generation that depends on the welfare of others, whether from the government or not. The expectation that people owe us a living for nothing has poisoned the hard-working American spirit. There are many who need to hear Saint Paul's admonition, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." There are some exceptions to this, of course, but not such broad exceptions that virtually anyone can expect a free handout whenever they want. For it is God who said that man should live by the sweat of his brow. Even in Eden before the curse, Adam and Eve were to work in the garden.
Even when people work hard, they are often seen seeking every advantage, driving hard bargains, squeezing and scrounging every penny out of a deal that they can. All this demonstrates a lack of trust in God that He will take care of us. If we trust Him, we will not be so frantic at every penny that may slip from our fingers. He will see that we are fed and cared for, perhaps not in the luxury we desire, but enough for our daily bread.
The greed that lies behind every sin against the Seventh Commandment is not hard to find in our own hearts. We love our possessions a little too much, and desire more and bigger toys. We are deeply distressed when we lose things we love.
But we should learn not to love the things in themselves, but to love God who gives good gifts. It is not wrong to enjoy material blessings. God provides them for our use and enjoyment. But we should enjoy them in such a way that we turn to God in thankfulness because of them. This is also why it is a good idea to pray at meals, so that we see our blessings not so much as ours, earned by our efforts, but as signs of God's grace and mercy toward us.
Yet we too easily live for pleasure and recreation. At the same time we may live as skinflints who will spend little on others. Whether it is church offerings, or giving to those in need, or even helping family members to whom we have responsibility - it is part of our sinful human nature to spend grudgingly for others, yet freely for ourselves.
But God has given you whatever earthly blessings He sees fit, not simply to benefit you, but so that you may also use it for others. They are not really your riches. You cannot earn anything by yourself. Everything you have is from God, including the skills and the ability to work hard. Even the hard-earned paycheck you slaved away for is really from Him. He allows us to use and possess, for however long He chooses, every earthly blessing that He showers upon us. Therefore, how grateful should we be, and how willing to freely give for others?
He also wants us to watch out for the property and income of our neighbors. We should defend his interests the same way we would want him to defend ours. Our human flesh wants us to say, "It's none of my business what happens to his property. He should take better care of what belongs to him." But that is the voice of laziness and lack of compassion.
Yet God does not treat us as we treat others. He did not say, "I do not care what happens to them, that is their business." He did not sit in heaven lazily enjoying His paradise while humanity perished under sin. No, He made it His business. He decided that He would protect and defend us.
Once we were lost in our sins and wanted to serve idols made of gold and silver, the gods of Mammon. Then God paid a price for us greater than all gold and silver. He paid His Son's holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death. He purchased us when we belonged to satan, and ransomed us from the grave. No price was too great for Him to pay.
When we were too miserly to help poor beggars around us, we showed ourselves to be spiritual beggars. Yet Christ loved us and gave us His precious gifts. He did not turn away from us in disgust or decide that we were not worthy of His charity. Of course we were not worthy. Yet He poured out His gifts nonetheless. He freely gave us forgiveness, life, and His Spirit. He gave us eternity and righteousness without limit.
When we were spiritually starving, He filled us with spiritual Bread from heaven. That Bread is Himself. We eat the bread from heaven when we believe in Him. So He fills us and satisfies our spiritual hunger. Although He gives us innumerable earthly blessings, His most precious, most valuable gift is the grace and mercy of the salvation He gives.
Now, He also gives us this gift, that every good and charitable act we do He accepts as if done to Him. When a little drink of water is given to a child, Christ treats it as if it was given to Him. A little penny put into the offering plate He counts as if put directly into His hand. The size of the gift we give is not the most important thing. He praises each small and lowly act of charity as if it was glorious. The world passes by the humble acts of Christians with disdain, and goes looking for bigger, flashier spectacles. But Christ sees our little works as great acts of mercy, because they are done in faith toward Him.
Whatever we give up or surrender, He promises a hundredfold will replace it. For He has prepared to give us a new heaven and a new earth, where every abundant blessing will be perfect. There we will not slave away for our daily bread. Perhaps there will be hard work, but all will be a joy and a pleasure. The bitterness of toil will be gone. There will be no loss or thievery there. God will not remove from us some blessings, as He does in this life. All will be as it was meant to be, and all will be permanent. So there will be no poor, and no starving, and no lack. There will only be abundance, as we enjoy the feast of the marriage banquet that does not end.
All this Christ has purchased for us by His passion, death, and resurrection. All praise and glory to His Name alone, with the Father and the Spirit. Amen.
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