Give me! Give me! H.C. Lord’s Day 42

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 42
 

Q 110. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment? 

A 110. God forbids not only outright theft and robbery, punishable by law. 
 
But in God’s sight theft also includes all scheming and swindling in order to get our neighbor’s goods for ourselves, whether by force or means that 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, God forbids all greed and pointless squandering of his gifts.
 
Q 111. What does God require of you in this commandment? 
 
A 111. 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.
 
Reading the 8th commandment feels, at first, like a breath of fresh air.  “Finally,” we say, “something I’ve got going for me here!”  Some of these other commandments make us cringe, especially when we start talking about them as matters of the heart.  But not stealing?  That’s easy.  I have no desire to rob my neighbor or shoplift at the mall.
 
Yet the commandment to not steal goes far deeper than simply stealing.  At the heart of this command, we find the themes of greed, cheating, injustice to the poor, and even the misuse of resources in the world.  All of this, unfortunately, is both part and parcel of western culture and sadly, deeply ingrained in the way that we often do things in America.
 
Once again, at the heart of the is not just a rule, its a heart alignment.  Living in a country that has been abundantly blessed, it is easy for us to overlook some of the less than righteous ways that we have gotten to this point.  This has also become true in the commercial sector as well.  We watch cut-throat businesses claw their way to the top, treating their employees as both abusable and expendable.  Even the medical industry is run in a way that promotes their profits over the health and well-being of those they are supposed to be helping.
 
It is easy to look around us and see structures and entities that work and thrive while violating this commandment.  Sadly, these are the perversion of a capitalist society that has chosen to promote personal gains and company profits over the well-being of those that their company was meant to benefit.  Yet, sadly do not even need to look that far to see this sort of sin, because it resides deep within us as well.
 
Have you ever taken an idea from a book or website without offering the appropriate credit?  Have you ever swiped a pencil or pen from a classroom or display?  Have you ever been lazy at work or taken things home from it that wasn’t yours?  Have you ever waisted someone else’s time either intentionally or unintentionally?  Have you ever sought a handout when you could easily have done something yourself?  Any and all of these (and unfortunately so much more) leave us in violation of this commandment.
 
Each one of these questions can sting.  As I was thinking through them I find myself having to answer yes to more than I thought I would.  An easy commandment?  Hardly.  We are steeped in a culture of self-fulfillment at almost any cost.  We will steal time from our families to give to work.  We will steal time from work to give to ourselves.  We will steal things from work so we don’t have to buy them from the store.
 
What’s worse?  We’ll do all this to “better” ourselves while ignoring the needs of our neighbor who is struggling.  It is the epitome of us not following the summary of the law: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
 
So where does this all come from?  Well, obviously sin is the answer.  Specifically, though, we are looking at hearts that are flooded with greed.  Turns out that greed is just an intense and specific form of selfishness that is centered on the disordered love of money and things.  Simply put, we want what we want and we don’t really care how we get it.
 
The question for us, then, becomes very clear: how do we combat our disordered desires?  Once again, the direction that the commandments point is also clear: we NEED a Savior.  As we encounter Jesus Christ and invite Him into our lives, the Holy Spirit begins the world of reordering our love and desires.  We are freed from the bondage of sin and selfishness and opened up to loving our neighbors and seeing them as God sees them.  This is a gradual process, not something that will happen overnight.
 
No doubt, we will readily be willing to see changes in some aspects of our lives while resistant in others.  Not too many people, if you ask them, would see overtime as a sin.  Certainly, in many cases, it’s not.  But when working becomes workaholism and the desire to provide becomes a love for money at the expense of family or other relationships, then we have crossed the boundary.  The same would be true for being late; not too many people would consider that a sin.  However, when being late is a constant disregard or lack of respect for the time of others (likely due, at that point, to an inflated sense of self-importance), then we are indeed sinning.
 
Our challenge, like that of the other commandments, is one of a major overhaul of the heart.  We cannot cherrypick the Biblical truths that we want to have in our lives while ignoring others simply because they are more culturally acceptable.  As the people of God we are called to be set apart, called to love Him and love each other over and above ourselves.  We are also people living in the age of grace, understanding forgiveness through our Savior.  Today’s post may be convicting, but rather than walking away with our heads hung low, we can look up knowing that we worship and serve a God of second chances who is always at work, remaking us in the image of His Son, and that work is ongoing.


Condemning Violence: H.C. Question 107

Is it enough then that we do not murder our neighbor in any such way? 

Matthew 7:12 – So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:39 – And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Matthew 5:3-12 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:36 – Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Galatians 6:1-2 – Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Ephesians 4:2 – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Colossians 3:12 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Exodus 23:4-5 – “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.

Matthew 5:44-45 – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Romans 12:20-21 – On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.



Matthew 7 – The Golden Rule

Read Matthew 7

The Golden Rule, as it has been eloquently coined, is one of the most quoted Biblical references.  In my experience, I usually hear it quoted to children who are struggling with social issues reminding them that people are more likely to treat us well when we treat them well.  It seems, especially for Biblical teaching, to be strangely self-serving.

How could Biblical teaching like this be self-centered?  Wouldn’t that be the complete opposite of the overall message we hear in the Bible?  Well… as a matter of fact, Yes!  In fact, the so-called “Golden Rule” is not a teaching of manipulation so others will treat you well.  It is, actually, an outgrowth of a much deeper and long-standing teaching, the “second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Indeed, all of the teachings in today’s reading are like this, reminders of the appropriate orientation that we are to have as the people of God.  This orientation is not toward ourselves, us trying to make ourselves look better (judging others), us seeing things in the world to elevate ourselves (seek first the Kingdom of God), or us doing things to others to rise above them (the golden rule).  The orientation that Christ is teaching is one of love; loving God and loving each other.

All of Jesus’ teachings here are accented by the notion that a “tree is known for its fruit.”  Jesus seems to be addressing here a culture that is holding up the notion of following the rules, people that go to church when they are supposed to, do their devotions every day, and pray before their meals.  Yet the warning goes out: “not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom…”  Jesus continues to say here, “I don’t want your actions, I want your heart.”