Lent 3 Midweek Service - The 7th Commandment
Wed. March 22, 2017
Grace and mercy to your from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen,
Tonight we focus on the 7th Commandment. After protecting your body in the 5th commandment and protecting your spouse by the 6th commandment, the next thing God wants to protect is your temporal property, your stuff. Tonight is again an exhortation to do something you already know you should do. It comes as a reminder that since you have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus, you would now learn to protect your neighbor's stuff. Would you please open your hymnal to page 323 for a question and answer:
Question: What is the 7th Commandment?
Answer: You shall not steal.
Question: What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor's money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to imporve and protect his possessions and income.
Let us pray: Creator Father, here you teach us me not to take my neighbor's possessions. I must not be unfaithful in my daily work so that I dishonestly profit myself. But I am to support myself by the sweat of the brow and learn to eat my own bread with honest people. I am also to help my neighbor so that his property, like my own, may not be taken away by deception. I learn in this commandment that out of fatherly care you secure and protect my possessions by forbidding any man to steal from me. When this commandment is not observed, you have delcared a penalty and have ordered that those in authority are to punish the thief. Whenever they fail to do so, you will punish, for all thieves must eventually become beggars. Amen.
Theft is the way of the world. It is common.
I grew up near a place called Road America. When the summer races began, the local prices on just about everything went up as well. If prices went up too much it was called price-gouging.
Big companies and small companies are at least tempted to think only of themselves and how to get more profit. But employees can also be tempted to skim some of the company funds for themselves.
I have heard the U.S. Government can do this as well. If a company breaks some rule, the government can levy a fine. Where does that fine money go, to fund projects of the ruling party.
It even happens in churches. Not too long ago, I heard of a congregation whose treasurer skimmed north of $30,000 over the previous several years. The congregation is graciously garnishing his wages until it is paid back rather than sending him to jail. Because of course the money is all gone. And he will not be the treasurer anymore.
In Martin Luther's day, thieves were publicly executed. Hanged in the center of town.
Today, thieves go to jail and pay heavy fines. That is the way it is suppose to be. But not everyone goes to jail or pays a fine or even gets caught. But your Creator Father always knows what you did.
Take the money and run. Make yourself look good. Feel good about your new wealth. But remember this: For every dollar you steal, your Father will require two dollars in return. Now this is not a damnable sin. Repent and believe. However, Christians steal as well as non-Christians. So, repent and believe. The most laughable thing you can say to an IRS agent is, "But I'm a Christian!" God can restore you to His gracious eternal kingdom – even as He requires the money you stole to be returned with interest. For every thief must become a beggar.
So what does God require?
First, we are forbidden to do our neighbors any injury or wrong in any way imaginable, whether by damaging, withholding, or interfering with their possessions and property. We are not even to give consent or permit such as thing but are rather to prevent such harm.
This is pleasing to the Lord, not for your salvation which is in Christ but for your neighbor's benefit, which is love. Christian faith benefits you. Christian love benefits your neighbor. You are exhorted to both believe the Word of God and then also to love your neighbor.
Second, we are commanded to promote our neighbor's financial well-being, and when they suffer any want, we are to help, share and lend to both friends and foes.
This is pleasing to the Lord. Again, not for your salvation which is in Christ but for your neighbor's benefit, which is love. Christian faith benefits you. Christian love benefits your neighbor. You are exhorted to both believe the Word of God and then also to love your neighbor.
King Solomon also teaches in Proverbs 19:17: "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and will be repaid in full." Here you have a rich LORD, who is able to meet your needs and will let you lack for nothing but protect you. With a happy conscience you can enjoy a hundred times more than you could scrap together by petty theft or grand scale fraud. Whoever does not desire this blessing will find wrath and misfortune enough.
And yes, it is true that the thief on the cross was forgiven by Jesus. That is my point. Theft is forgivable. However, my other point is that the forgiven thief, died on his cross. Why? Because he was a thief.
May the Lord protect all your material things and may you receive the blessings that come from loving your neighbor by helping to protect his possessions and income. His stuff. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.