Honoring Security (Commandment #8)
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAYS 42
What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?
He forbids not only outright theft and robbery, punishable by law. But in God’s sight theft also includes cheating and swindling our neighbor by schemes made to appear legitimate, such as: inaccurate measurements of weight, size, or volume; fraudulent merchandising; counterfeit money; excessive interest; or any other means forbidden by God. In addition he forbids all greed and pointless squandering of his gifts.
What does God require of you in this commandment?
That I do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good, that I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.
DEVOTIONAL: SEPTEMBER 24-30
Honoring Security (Commandment #8)
Security is a big deal in today’s world. Home security, cyber security, airport security and border security are just a few examples that make the Eighth Commandment – “You shall not steal” – relevant for today’s culture. It is God’s gracious call to humanity to build a safe, secure and just society.
The opening question and answer of Lord’s Day 42 is negative. It focuses on what God forbids – “outright theft and robbery” from others; deceptive “schemes made to appear legitimate” through various expressions of greed; and, the personal “pointless squandering of his gifts.” In other words, theft is more than merely breaking and entering. The Catechism teaches that theft also includes the human propensity to self-interest, and the misuse of the life and gifts we have received from the Lord. While the words may be negative, the message is entirely gracious and positive. Christians in word and deed commit themselves to build a safe, secure and just society. Therefore, they flee every attitude, motivation or decision that undermines or strips away what the gospel is rebuilding.
The next question and answer of Lord’s Day 42 is decidedly positive. It describes gospel centered obedience to the command, specifically rooting our behaviors in God’s character of generous grace. The Catechism’s teaching can be summarized in three words: command, conviction and character. First, the command. God wills that I should “do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good.” The Father recreated us in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are to encourage one another “toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). We are to do good to our enemies (Romans 12:20-21). And we are to pray for the peace and security of society (1 Timothy 2:1-4). To do God’s “good” is to build a safe, secure and just society that protects and promotes human value and dignity. Next, the Catechism identifies the conviction that drives the command. I should “treat others as I would like them to treat me.” These words describe more than the “golden rule.” They are, as Jesus teaches, the great summary of the law and the prophets, the gospel message that calls us to love as we are loved. They are words, therefore, that intentionally call us away from the pride and prejudice that too often color our treatment of others. They describe the core conviction that calls us to respect, restore, and renew the image of God in children, women and men as critical for building a safe, secure and just society (Matthew 7:9-12). Finally, our conviction is rooted in God’s character that is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul states: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Therefore, God’s will is “that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.” Unlike American greed – “I earned it; it is mine” – Biblical, gospel-centered and Christ-emulating faith seeks to be stewards of God’s gifts for God’s purposes in God’s world – “I received; therefore, I will give.” That is the kind of gospel directed heart that fulfills the Eighth Commandment and brings glory to God.
Sometimes the meaning of Eighth Commandment is overstated. On the one hand, the command does not ban private property or possessions. It does not forbid saving money, investing in retirement accounts or purchasing insurance policies. And, it does not prohibit us from enjoying the good gifts of life – like fine wine, a vacation away, or a nice home. In fact, the Eighth Commandment refuses to suggest that we may not enjoy the fruit of our labor. On the other hand, the command does call us to work faithfully. We are not called to live a life of entitlement, living only off the charity of individuals, churches, corporations or governments. We are called to “work faithfully so that [we] may share with those in need.” And, as Paul teaches, we are all in need: “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need” (2 Corinthians 8:14). A balanced gospel perspective is critical. The Eighth Commandment teaches us to be wise stewards who in Jesus’ name serve a safe, secure, and just society where people are equipped to responsibly flourish.
The ultimate goal of the Catechism’s teaching is that a gospel-driven command, conviction and character will become the “sanctified common sense” that imitates Jesus: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (2 Corinthians 9:11). Will you honor God’s will for the use of His good gifts both in others and in yourself?
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn
Sunday, September 24
The Catechism roots its teaching regarding moral behavior in the character of God. Prayerfully read 2 Corinthians 8:1-15. Describe the character and fruit of the gospel of Jesus Christ as described in verse 9. How do these words call us to build a safe, secure and just society?
Monday, September 25
The Catechism states that God requires “that I do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good.” Prayerfully read Galatians 6:9-10. Describe how you practice the call to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” What are some reasons you may become weary of doing good? How do you overcome that struggle?
Tuesday, September 26
The Catechism states that God requires “that I treat others as I would like them to treat me.” Prayerfully read Matthew 7:7-12. How does the “golden rule” emulate the character of the Father? How will you practice or begin to practice His character in your life?
Wednesday, September 27
The Catechism states that God requires “that I work faithfully.” Prayerfully read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13. Why is idleness sinful and disruptive to health living? Describe how work brings a sense of value and dignity to our lives, and how we can help equip others to live with the same convictions.
Thursday, September 28
The Catechism states that God requires “that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.” Prayerfully read Acts 2:42-47. Describe the character of a vibrant, gospel-centered Christian community. How does a community of mutual devotion, care, encouragement and support give compelling testimony to the beauty of gospel grace?
Friday, September 29
The Catechism states that God “forbids all greed and pointless squandering of his gifts.” Prayerfully read Luke 12:13-21. How do the words, “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” both affirm your identity in Christ and challenge your behaviors to emulate Christ? Describe the different ways greed often captures the full attention and devotion of our lives.
Saturday, September 30
Prayerfully read 2 Corinthians 9:6-11. It is said the best way to overcome greed is to practice generosity. Why does greed and the accumulation of things make us feel empty? Likewise, why do those who give the most feel the most satisfied in life? How does this challenge your own attitude, motivation and practice regarding the eighth commandment?