THIS WEEK: Lead Me to the Cross…Read the Tablets…Find the Cross!
Friday: Lead Me to the Cross: Stealing Stuff and A Good Name
Taking something that is not rightfully yours…that’s stealing.
The seventh commandment, “You shall not steal” is another one we like to easily cruse past and “check off” as “kept.” But our image of putting on a mask (oh, wait, that’s ok these days J ) and holding up a bank demanding sacks of cash as the only way to break this commandment is far from accurate.
But again when I take a closer look, I ask, “What can I take that is not rightfully mine?” Answers from a classmate? Time surfing the web from my employer? Deceptive transaction on Facebook Marketplace? Failing to give an offering to the Lord?
Wait, what do you mean? I can steal from God? Yep. Consider Malachi 3:8-10. (But see the promise too!):
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
Stealing again starts in the heart, desiring to have what we have not been given, or what is not rightfully ours. The seventh commandment God protects our possessions. The ninth and tenth guide our heart away from the desire that leads to stealing:
Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Luther put it this way in regard to stealing and coveting:
(On the Seventh Commandment): 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.
(On the Ninth and Tenth Commandment): We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it. We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor’s wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.
One of the ways we can connive to get something not ours is by stealing our neighbor’s reputation. If I can make someone not trust another individual, it may work for my advantage. (Insert political campaigns and politics in general here!) Telling something false, or even spreading the truth with intent to harm someone’s reputation takes away their good name, often with the intent to build up our good name.
Luther put it this way: We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.
The irony? We usually damage our name greater when it is found out we have lied about another person. So let’s give up the telling of lies, and rather work to build up and speak well of others.
Need the cross? I do. The last four commandments lead me to crawl back to Jesus and his cross and look for his heart and life that perfectly cover mine and his suffering and death that were paid on my behalf.
I love the commandments and I hope you do to. Why? Because they first lead me to the cross and then forgiven and empowered by Jesus’ love, the lead me from the cross to better love God and love the people around me.
Apply: Take the Malachi challenge. Put God first in your financial wealth. Find blessing in returning to God what is his. Enjoy the blessings he gives as you live on 90% of your income!
Lord, your law is good and wise;
It sets your will before my eyes
Shows me the way of righteousness,
But dooms to death when we transgress.
To Jesus I for refuge flee
Who from the curse has set me free,
And humbly worship at your throne,
Saved by your grace through faith alone. AMEN
(Adapted from Christian Worship, Hymn 287:1,4)