Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 42
Lord's Day 42
What does God forbid
in the eighth commandment?
God forbids not only outright theft and robbery
but also such wicked schemes and devices as
false weights and measures,
we must not defraud our neighbour in any way,
whether by force or by show of right.
In addition God forbids all greed
and all abuse or squandering of His gifts.
What does God require of you
in this commandment?
I must promote my neighbour's good
wherever I can and may,
deal with him
as I would like others to deal with me,
and work faithfully
so that I may be able to give
to those in need.
Q. & A. 110 – 111 Serve the Lord with Your Goods
- Stealing is the wrongful taking and appropriation of another person's goods. The command, “You shall not steal,” therefore, presupposes that the other person has something that is his; it presumes ownership. Many persons today dispute the right to call an object one's own to the exclusion of others. But they are wrong.
- The Lord is the absolute owner of everything. Ps 24:1 says: "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein." (See also Acts 17:24).
But God created man so that he had need of possessions. Man cannot fulfil his life and calling without any possessions. He needs at least a minimum number. The Lord, therefore, gave material goods to man (Gen 1:29; Ps 8:7). Article 12 of the BC says of God's providence toward all creatures: We believe that He also continues to sustain and govern them . . . in order to serve man, to the end that man may serve his God.
In his providence, God gave each person his share (Acts 5:4a). And we must be satisfied with his ordinance.
We must, therefore, not speak or think disparagingly about material things and possessions. They are, if lawfully obtained, God's gifts. But we should also not assume that our possessions are everything. Mt 16:26 says: "For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?"
We must use our material goods properly, as stewards, in such a manner that it pleases God (Lk 16:1-13). Then it will earn profit for eternity!
- The Lord protects lawful ownership in his law. He forbids the most extreme sin, i.e., theft, but thereby he also forbids all attacks upon and violation of property rights.
The commandment Forbids:
a. The unlawful acquisition of another's goods (by theft, robbery, fraud, usury, deceptive merchandise, false weights and measures, counterfeit money, failure to put in a good day's work, black market activities, non-payment of debts, etc.).
b. The wrongful use of our property (as when we withhold it from the Lord, his church, our family, or society; greed; and dissipation)
The commandment Requires:
a. The lawful acquisition of possessions. (Pray and work [2 Thess 3:10-12; Eph 4:28]).
b. The lawful use of our property. We must show love by means of our possessions too, and promote our neighbour's good wherever we can and may. We must deal with him as we would like others to deal with us. Further, we must serve the cause of the gospel in this world by giving our gifts for church, school and mission. And we may use our possessions to show love to poor family members. Christ says, in Mt 25:40: "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.
- The “liberal” rejection of the Christian social calling toward society.
- What is stealing? What does the eighth commandment presuppose?
- Who is the absolute owner? What does Ps 24:1 say? To whom did God give material goods? To what end did he do so? How must we use our goods?
- What does the eighth commandment forbid? What does it require?
- What should be our conduct toward the neighbour?