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Exodus 20:15 ESV
“You shall not steal.
Small Catechism:
You shall not steal. What does this mean? 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 improve and protect his possessions and income.

Introduction

We continue in our study of our duty to our neighbor in the Second Table of God’s Law. Today we take up the Seventh Commandment, which calls us to honor our our neighbor’s income, possessions and property.
Our Gospel lesson today is perhaps my favorite Gospel that is read in the three year cycle. It is about the Canaanite woman who has a demonically possessed daughter and she comes to Jesus for help.
In our Gospel lesson today,
He puts her through the ringer. First, he does not answer her at all, as if she is not even there. His disciples thought she was nuts, and wanted to send her away. In their ears He confirms this by telling them, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In other words, “I’m not answering her because she is from Cyrophonecia. She’s a Gentile.
But it doesn’t stop her. She knew that Jesus was the only answer to her dilemma. So she comes at Him again. Now, she kneels in front of Him— an act of Worship, and cries out, “Lord, help me.” For the first time, He says something to her. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Wow. Two things here. First, he calls her a “dog”- a derogatory term that the Jews frequently used against the Gentiles. Second, He tells her that to grant her prayer, He would be stealing from those to whom He came to save, the Children of Israel. Taking what was theirs and throwing it to the dogs instead.
Her comeback is remarkable. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
We finally see that Jesus was not being mean at all. This was all intentional, not to put her down, but to show the disciples what true faith looks like. Nothing would stop her from calling on Jesus. Nothing would make her not believe that Jesus, her “Master” and that He could heal her daughter. Jesus drew out her faith and confession and commends her: “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was cleansed instantly.
Stealing. While Jesus would never steal, we do. Jesus fulfilled this commandment fully for you and forgives your hubris and carelessness toward your neighbor with regard to income, possessions and property.
Our outline for today will be the word “TAKE”: This commandment forbids us to TAKE what is not ours from our neighbor; This includes things that APPEAR to be right but actually defraud our neighbor, God commands us to help our neighbor KEEP what is his; and As Christians we rejoice in and look after the EARTHLY goods that God has given us and our neighbor for the support of daily life.

We are forbidden to TAKE what is not ours from our neighbor.

God gives to each of us all that we need to support our body and life. It is true that we are all differently gifted. Yet God calls us to be content with what we have and to use our Good gifts from Him to worship Him in our giving to Him and to others in need.
Life is never about “taking” anything for a Christian. We receive, to be sure, for that is how we are saved. But the Christian life is marked with GIVING, not taking.
Taking is something that is wholly part of our sin nature. That unholy trinity that dwells within us, “Me, myself and I” wants to take EVERYTHING. It has an insatiable desire to possess the whole world. It’s all about me. I am at the center of my universe. The more I amass the better. Life is all about getting rich, making money, letting people fear my name. That lurks below the surface in each of us, and needs to be daily drowned through remembering your baptism by confessing each day.
Three Different Ways that we sin and break this commandment. Sins of COMMISSION, Sins of OMISSION and Sins of IGNORANCE and CARELESSNESS.
Sins of Commission are easy to understand. When we reach out and blatantly take something that is not our own. Robbery (taking something by force), Burglary taking something secretly), Larceny (taking something and converting it to our ownership or use), thievery (same as larceny). All of these things and related things are strictly forbidden by the Lord and bring His judgment.
Sins of Omission are sins where we could have prevented something from being taken but didn’t. When my daughter, Laura, was married, Sue and I stayed in a hotel outside of Savanna, Georgia. About 7 in the morning there was a knock at my door. I opened it and there was a deputy sheriff standing there with the hotel manager. He asked me what the licence plate number was on my car. When I told him, he said, “I’m sorry to inform you that your car was broken into overnight, along with several others in the parking lot.” We walked outside. My driver’s side window was smashed out. My GPS was gone (in those days, they were still an expensive commodity, now pretty much replaced by cell phones). I knew it was risky to leave it on the dash, and I paid the price. Had I taken it off the dash as I almost always did, this car thief probably wouldn’t have broken in. So, while what happened was wrong, I was partially to blame.
Sins of omission also include not taking action if we see something wrong with our neighbor’s property and not informing them. A low hanging tree branch over their roof, or a suspicious person hanging around and we don’t call the police. Not calling in an accident that we pass though we have a phone with us. In our eyes these things are a little grey, but in God’s eyes they are black and white sin.
Then there are the sins of carelessness and ignorance. We borrow money from someone, intending on paying it back at the time, but then we never get around to doing it. We photocopy something that is copyrighted. We borrow a friend’s software and install it on our computer so we don’t have to buy it. We copy songs without purchasing the album. We add cable boxes to our homes, tapping off of the main line, and get cable service in rooms that are not on our bill. We rationalize taking something because we think someone owes us more than what they give us. We reveal secrets and confidences shared with us. All of these are sins in God’s eyes. All break the Seventh Commandment.
With all of the news about statues coming down all over our Country, and even the threat of blowing up Mount Rushmore, understand that no matter what the reasons given to justify this, anyone and everyone who does it or supports it breaks this commandment. Property, not belonging to the perpetrators, is being destroyed. Sin. End of story. They are stealing, and boldly so, I might add.

Those things that APPEAR to be right but actually defraud

The Catechism has one more “break out” point about stealing. And that is defrauding people in a way that appears to be right.
Genesis 25:29–34 ESV
Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Genesis 25:
Overcharging for something as a merchant and keeping the extra for yourself.
Overcharging for something as a merchant and keeping the extra for yourself.
Lawsuits. Did you know that Christians are generally forbidden to sue in Court by the Scriptures? Certainly there are some cases where it is justified, but not usually. I know several people who have gained their entire wealth by suing other people frivolously, winning the cases, and pocketing the cash.
One Biblical example of this
1 Corinthians 6:1–8 ESV
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
The bottom line is that we break this commandment both knowingly and unknowingly. And we stand under God’s wrath because of it. God calls us to fear Him because of this.
God calls us to repent. Confess our sin of stealing to Him. To make restitution. To pay our debts.
For what was done to Jesus appeared to be right. He was an upstart to many. He was a sheep stealer, taking members of the Synagogues across the land and mesmorizing them with radically new teaching. He destroyed the income of the money changers in the temple. He ridiculed the religious of the day. So anything that happened to him was exactly what He deserved. The mob bought into it with their shouts of “crucify” and they got their way.
His ministry was stolen from Him on a show of right. His dignity was stolen from Him in their parking-lot discussions after worship. His humbleness was exchanged for humiliation because they thought Him to be wrong. And they crucified the Lord of Life.
And in His death your stealing died. Your hubris was nailed to the cross. Your sinful nature that wants to feed itself was put to death in Baptism with Him. He takes the Children’s food and throws it to the dogs, and you eat the crumbs: Crumbs of His body that have fallen in our hands and on our tongues. Broken for you so that your sin of stealing no longer bans you from heaven. Given to you so that the Holy Spirit now can move you to defend and protect your neighbor’s property and business.

God commands us to help our neighbor KEEP and protect what is his.

And so now, life changes for you. With the eyes of the Father, given to you by the Spirit through the forgiving flood of Jesus blood for you, your neighbor comes first. What is his is his, what is yours is yours. The Spirit gives us contentment in God’s good gifts and spurns us on to give it back to Him one hundred fold.
When we see something we say something. When a brother or sister in Christ does something that can defraud another, we call him or her out on it so it doesn’t happen. When we see a neighbor in need, we step in and do our part. Maybe it means cutting the grass or raking the leaves of an elderly neighbor. Maybe it means helping to keep our church property up here. Maybe it means using our skills as a carpenter, or a plumber, or an electrician to help someone who can’t afford to fix something that would ultimately destroy their home or livelihood. Beloved, there are so many opportunities out there where we can help our neighbor keep his property or business. We need only to look. When God’s baptized children do these things it is pleasing to God.

We rejoice in and look after the EARTHLY Goods that God has given us and our neighbor for the support of this daily life.

And so we pray, Lord God, giver of every good and perfect gift, teach us to rejoice in the bounty of Your gifts given to our neighbors and curb our appetite to claim for ourselves by theft or dishonesty the money or possessions You have bestowed on them. Instead give us cheerful heats and willing hands to help our neighbors improve and protect their livelihood; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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