IX. The Eighth Commandment: Q & A 73-75
Q. 73 Which is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is, “You shall not steal.”
Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19.
Q. 74 What is required in the eighth commandment?
A. 74 The eighth commandment requires the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.
At Leviticus 19:11a, this command is also repeated, and there it is made clear that, among other things, the command prohibits one from dealing falsely with one’s neighbour. As with the breaking of any command, it inevitably leads to the breaking of others. Specifically, it is impossible to steal from someone without dealing falsely with them or lying about it (v. 11bc). Furthermore, one is also guilty of stealing when a worker’s wages are held back from them (v. 13). The flip side, as it were, of this commandment is that everyone should be lawfully employed in work to sustain themselves and those who depend on them, and to ensuring this freedom to one’s fellow citizens (Lev. 25:35; Pr. 27:23, 27; Rom. 12:17; Phil. 2:4; I Tim. 5:8).
Q. 75. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. 75 The eighth commandment forbids whatsoever does or may justly hinder our own or our neighbour’s wealth or outward estate.
We must not excuse the state in this regard. The state is also forbidden from withholding wages from every citizen who must work for the state through taxation. To tax beyond what the Scriptures allow, indeed to seek beyond the tithe apportioned to the church, is also the breaking of this commandment. The fact that the state might be democratically elected no more gives them the right to confiscatory taxation, then it does to condone the murder of the innocent, or the violation of any of the law, for all states are called to be God’s servants to govern according to his word (Rom. 13). True repentance with regard to this commandment is to stop stealing, working that which is good, not only to provide for one’s self, but also for the needs of others. Paul even stated that if one refuses to work, they should not eat (II Th. 3:10).
When the state repents, it will leave more for the worker to care for himself and others, in areas where the state has no mandate. Laziness is also a form of stealing (Pr. 18:9). Ultimately the Lord owns everything, and gives people the resources to fulfill the original covenant mandate at creation (Gen. 1:26-29; Ps. 89:11), including as nations (Acts 17:26). Therefore, to not be productive in some manner in this dominion mandate, is to rob from God his due (Pr. 6:6-8; Mt. 25:19-46). One further point needs to be made with respect to this commandment, since stealing is prohibited it is clear that there is a right to personal property. Again, for the state to claim the right of ownership to all things, is to stake a claim that belongs to God alone, and it is theft of both God and man. Giving must be done in a free and altruistic way (Acts 2:44-45; 5:1-11, esp. v. 4).
“The Bible says there are two legitimate ways in which we may obtain property. (1) One is by inheritance (see Num. 36:7-9; 2 Cor. 12:14; Eph. 4:28; Phil. 4:18). We all receive our first possessions in this way. Our parents or guardians give us whatever property we possess. (2) The other way is by our own labor. “Let him that stole steal no more,” says Paul, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:18). Wealth obtained in either of these two ways is not evil. People often say that money is the root of all evil. But the Bible says it is the love of money which is the root of all evil.” (Williamson ‘The WSC For Study Classes’ ). Finally, when we work as unto the LORD, from him we will receive our ultimate reward (Eph. 6:5-9).