“You shall not steal” Deuteronomy 5:19
Again, a seemingly straightforward commandment, yet more complex than one might at first assume. In a competition, the fastest or strongest are called victor. The best wins the game and takes the prize. In life though, the stronger man can take another’s property, but the theft is unjust. Christianity calls for a society where there is a respect for the ownership of property and goods, where the strongest can’t just take for him or herself.
When we start talking about possessions, we must realize that those possessions are given to us from God, who declared man the stewards of the Earth and all of her possessions. As good stewards, we must take proper care of our keep and order them to God and our fellow neighbor.
Violations of the rule are nuanced, but clear all the same. One cannot steal nor can he deliberately keep borrowed goods or those found. Imagine you see a man pull his hand out of his pocket and a $20 bill falls out – you should alert the man, not take the found prize. Also, it is a violation of the 7th commandment to take advantage of hardship, exploiting another’s misfortune. Purposely doing shoddy work in an effort for profit, at the expense of another, is also wrong.
Needless waste of goods, willful destruction of goods and tax evasion are all also violations. Imagine we discover a new world and you are first to land there – it is inappropriate for you to section off half the world as your own.
Gambling in excess is also a violation and can lead to enslavement if caution is not taken.
Slavery is obviously wrong but also fits into a violation of the seventh commandment because it exploits another for personal gain. To use another, unduly, is to unjustly exploit another for the accumulation of goods or money. You would be, in effect, stealing the time and energy of another for your personal gain.
One must rely on prayer, contemplation and a moral compass to discern the seventh commandment. It is just to pay a man a fair wage to perform a service but at what point does a wage become unfair? One must use his or her best judgment with many contemplations.
Animals are also God’s creation and should be treated as such. The use of animals for clothing and food is good, but causing animals to unduly suffer is a violation of the 7th commandment. Also, exploitation or unnecessary destruction of animals is wrong. Also, using animals for science is permitted, so long as it is necessary for the common good of man and good care is taken.
God has recognized us as stewards of the earth and are entrusted with its goods. Each and every gift should be ordered toward God. When Cain’s offering to God was from the least of his goods, hoarding his fruits for himself, God encouraged Cain to avoid his overt sinful pride. Cain didn’t appreciate the gifts received and put himself as the center, confusing himself as the giver. When we view our gifts as from solely our efforts, without appreciating the giver of all life, we can put an overabundance on the gifts rather than the giver. A dependence of the goods of the world will only lead to a restless heart. When you order the goods towards God, family and your neighbor, you can better find rest. If you worry over your goods, even to the point of exploitation of others or theft, you become enslaved to the earth and its sin.
Thanks be to God and His good gifts.