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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.

Not Stealing Means Working an Honest Job

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that

he may have something to give him who has need. - Ephesians 4:28

Today we continue our study of Question 141 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What

are the duties required in the Eighth Commandment?” The second part of the answer

states, “The duties required in the Eighth Commandment are… a provident care and study

to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the

sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in

it; frugality.”

God made us physical creatures in a physical world with physical needs. We need to

regularly eat and drink in order to satisfy our human nutritional requirements. A certain

amount of clothing and shelter are indispensable for our protection and health. Likewise,

our bodies need habitual exercise and rest to function properly. Moreover, we must guard

against injury, sickness, diseases, infections, and other maladies that can afflict and harm

us. And in addition to all of these inherent & perpetual physical needs, we must contend

with changing weather conditions, impermanent home, work, and state environments,

differing age, ability, personality, learning, relationships, & many other factors, which all

play a role in determining what kind of and how much clothing, food, work, rest, shelter,

and etc., will be sufficient for us in different circumstances. The Catechism includes and

addresses all of these various aspects by enjoining on us “a provident care and study to

get, keep, use, and dispose” those things which we need: suitable to our current condition

and necessary to the sustenance of our natures. We are to look at our situation, determine

our need, and wisely seek to fill it.

How do we go about securing what we need in order to live and serve God in this world in

a way that is godly and not sinful? First, we should recognize that the God who made us

with ongoing physical needs, made a world that is amply suited to meet those needs, and

He has given us the right to use the things of this world as we need them. Thus, God gave

mankind the plants of the ground, the fruit of the trees, and the animals to use for his food

(Gen. 1:29; 2:16; 9:3). God gave these things to us to use for our needs. Therefore, it is wrong

for any man or group of men to say that we should not use them (some environmental

and animal rights groups), or that we can only use certain kinds of them (false religions

and man-based scientific conclusions). Likewise, in giving parts of His creation to us, God

shows us that it is good for us to acquire things as our own possessions. So that private

property can also be said to be necessary for our well-being and that it is a God-given,

indispensable right that no man can take away without disobeying his Creator and doing

harm to his fellow men.

Furthermore, by example, God showed Adam and Eve how to make clothing for

themselves from the skin of animals (Gen. 3:21). Therefore, it is good and right for us to do

likewise, for it is needful for us to have clothing in this fallen world for our protection and

care. God commanded man to work, giving him the task of tending the ground and

ordering His creation (Gen. 1:28; 2:15). He also showed him the pattern of working six days

and resting one. Accordingly, man has a need to regularly work and rest, which need is

inherent in his created, human nature. So that to not do either one on a regular basis will

surely be harmful to him. The Catechism addresses this need in setting forth our duty to

have a lawful calling and to be diligent in it. Each human being has a vocation, a calling

from God to work, and it is by this work that we produce a commodity that we can barter

to honestly and uprightly secure the things we need.

Thus, we see how God has arranged it so that we can provide for our own needs

legitimately, without stealing:

1. He has created a world with a renewable supply of all the things we need.

2. He has commanded us to work in order to rightly earn the things we need.

Frugality means that we are to not squander the resources of this world. We should

remember that all creation belongs to God. He has given it to us to use as we need; we

earn portions of it by our work, but it was made by God. Honor to God and due

thankfulness demands that we appreciate His goods and not waste what He has

graciously and lovingly given, but also that we do not worship it by elevating any part of

this world above the dominion of every man.


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