Stop Stealing [Ex. 20:15]

“The purpose of this commandment is: since injustice is an abomination to God, we should render to each man what belongs to him [Rom.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.

We must consider that what every man possesses has not come to him by mere chance but by the distribution of the supreme Lord of all. For this reason, we cannot by evil devices deprive anyone of his possessions without fraudulently setting aside God’s dispensation.

Now there are many kinds of thefts. One consists in violence, when another’s goods are stolen by force and unrestrained brigandage. A second kind consists in malicious deceit, when they are carried off through fraud. Another lies in a more concealed craftiness, when a man’s goods are snatched from him by seemingly legal means. Still another lies in flatteries, when one is cheated of his goods under the pretense of a gift….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 thefts….

[God] sees the intricate deceptions with which a crafty man sets out to snare one of simpler mind, until he at last draws him into his nets. He sees the hard and inhuman laws with which the more powerful oppresses and crushes the weaker person. He sees the lures with which the wilier man baits, so to speak, his hooks to catch the unwary. All these things elude human judgment and are not recognized. And such injustice occurs not only in matters of money or in merchandise or land, but in the right of each one; for we defraud our neighbors of their property if we repudiate the duties by which we are obligated to them.

If a shiftless steward or overseer devours his master’s substance, and fails to attend to household business; if he either unjustly spends or wantonly wastes the properties entrusted to him; if the servant mocks his master, if he divulges secrets; if in any way he betrays his life or goods; if the master, on the other hand, savagely harasses his household—all these are deemed theft in God’s sight. For he who does not carry out what he owes to others according to the responsibility of his own calling both withholds and appropriates what is another’s.

…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; but if we have to deal with faithless and deceitful men, let us be prepared to give up something of our own rather than to contend with them. And not this alone: but let us share the necessity of those whom we see pressed by the difficulty of affairs, assisting them in their need with out abundance.

…let a people hold all its rulers in honor, patiently bearing their government, obeying their laws and commands, refusing nothing that can be borne without losing God’s favor.

…Let the ministers of churches faithfully attend to the ministry of the Word, not adulterating the teaching of salvation [cf. II Cor 2:17], but delivering it pure and undefiled to God’s people. and let them instruct the people not only through teaching, but also through example of life….

Let the people in their turn receive them as messengers and apostles of God, render to them that honor of which the highest Master has deemed worthy, and give them those things necessary for their livelihood….

Let parent undertake to nourish, govern, and teach, their children committed to them by God, not provoking their minds with cruelty or turning them against their parents [Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:12]; but cherishing and embracing their children with such gentleness and kindness as become their character as parents.

…children owe obedience to their parents. Let youth reverence old age, as the Lord has willed that age to be worthy of honor. Also, let the aged guide the insufficiency of youth with their own wisdom and experience wherein they excel the younger, not railing harshly and loudly against them but tempering their severity with mildness and gentleness.

Let servants show themselves diligent and eager to obey their masters—not for the eye, but from the heart, as if they were serving God. Also, let masters not conduct themselves peevishly and intractably toward their servants, oppressing them with undue rigor, or treating them abusively….

In this manner, I say let each man consider that, in his rank and station, he owes to his neighbors, and pay what he owes. Moreover, our mind must always have regard for the Lawgiver, that we may know that this rule was established for our hearts as well as for our hands, in order that men may strive to protect as promote the well-being and interests of others.”

-John Calvin, Institutes, 2.8.45-46

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