Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

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.

You shouldn’t take what does not belong to you. That is a basic rule which we have all been raised to adhere to. People everywhere know that you shouldn’t steal. Thieves are looked down upon and punished in cultures around the globe. God’s law is universal.

Stealing takes on various forms in a complex economy such as our own. It is not simply a matter of taking the jewels out of someone’s safe or robbing a bank at gunpoint. Stealing refers to any time when we take anything from an unwitting partner.

While all Christians should be encouraged to be generous, we, as Christians, should not “take advantage” of the charity of others (II Thessalonians 3:10). If you are in need of assistance then accepting help is a good thing. We should never be too proud to accept charity. But we should be too honest to take it when we do not truly need it. Receiving charity should be our last resort, not our first option.

Avoiding the payment of taxes is also stealing. The government, according to Romans 13:7, has the authority to gather taxes. They are not limited in this power. They are allowed to tax as much or as little as is necessary, and we are obliged to pay. In a democracy if we think taxes to be too high or unfair we may work, and work vigorously, to have them lowered to a “fair” level. But we are never free to skip payments or hide our wealth.

The converse is true as well. If we must not steal, then we also must, by the grace of God, help our neighbors to improve and protect their possessions. If your neighbor is about to make a bad purchase, warn them. If they are investing in a shaky venture, tell them you think so. Help other people to avoid being taken advantage of and unlawfully losing the possessions that God has entrusted to their care.

If we have broken this commandment, if we have taken advantage of another or cheated them out of their property, there is no reason to despair. There is reason to repent and believe that the sufferings of Jesus Christ have removed our sins. As we move this month from Lent into the celebration of Easter let each of us continue to leave our sins, our stealing and cheating and any others, at the foot of the cross. Let us cling to the grace given us in Christ, to be a new and sinless creation.

The Sixth Commandment

You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and descent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

This is a commandment that in our day and age is becoming increasingly marginalized and forgotten. The clear command from God is that we refrain from any sexual conduct that is not honoring to God or our spouse. (If you are not married then consider God in Christ as your “spouse” even if you are a man.) This excludes a whole range of activities from blatant sexual affairs to “harmless” flirting with others. Homosexual behavior is not honoring to God or to other human beings. Fornication and pornography do not give respect to the other people involved, even if they are consenting partners.

The key here is that we are to love and honor our spouse over any human being. Obviously God is to be loved and honored over all. But our spouse comes next. We are not simply to tolerate and accommodate our spouse. We are to do everything that we can to show them respect and love. It means putting them first, living for them.

Married men do not have the luxury of thinking only of their own needs, be they sexual or otherwise. They must ask themselves if what they are doing, and even thinking, shows love for their wives. Single men are the same. They are to show uncanny respect for women, married or otherwise. Women are not objects to fulfill our desires but gifts from God to give us help in our times of need (Genesis 2). They deserve all the respect and honor that we can give, not the least that we can scrounge up.

Women also must respect men, whether they are married or not. By watching the average sitcom or beer commercial you would think that men are all giant idiots who cannot see beyond their own noses. But men will not rise above the expectations set for them. If women expect men to treat them with respect, to show courage and leadership, to think spiritually and act morally, then men will meet that challenge. They were born, created, to meet such a challenge.

As Americans we can fall into the trap of treating one another as the world does. Or we can rise to the challenge of showing the utmost respect for each human being. Let husband and wife love and honor each other. Let all men and women show respect and love for each other.