How the Law Teaches Us to Rest in Christ and Love Our Neighbor
There is a consistent concern in the second table of the law that calls all men to recognize the needs of their neighbors over whatever is their own. We know that because that’s what Jesus says in Matthew 22:36-40. It’s also what Moses writes in Leviticus 19:18. The Bible is reliable like that. God in His grace is a witness to all men that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves and we should have the needs and the mind of the community first. If anything is less a part of our mindset today I am not sure what it would be. Everything from our time to our energy to the way we approach life is geared toward me, myself, and I. Watching four or five commercials is all one needs to confirm that thesis. “What’s wrong with you and how can you improve you” is the attitude which overwhelms our culture. In no other place is the chasm greater than when it comes to what we should do with the financial resources the Lord has granted to us in His providence. We hold onto it for dear life, and not without reason. We should be good stewards of the money and goods God in His grace grants.
In our look at the Westminster Larger Catechism this morning we are going to hear some pushback from the Divines that will require listening as it goes directly against the American way of life in some important ways. Get ready to find some humility.
Here are the two Questions and Answer’s for today:
Q. 140: Which is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.
Q. 141: What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
A. The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; 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; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits and suretyship, or other like engagements; and an endeavour, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.
Whenever we begin to ask the question about what a law of God requires of us we need to do two things immediately: 1) What do we know about the character of our Lord that would inform our understanding? 2) Why is it good for me and my friends that I heed the call? When it comes to the eighth commandment the answer to the first is provided in the gospel itself. In order to encourage the Philippians Christians, the Apostle Paul has this to say:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Another passage it would be helpful to go to is found in 1 Corinthians where the same servant writes the following, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”
The attitude intimated from the Bible is that as creatures we owe all that we have to the Creator. We have nothing that is ours strictly speaking. Our life, whether physical or spiritual, our talents, even the providence of time is all from above. The more men and women consider that the more free they will feel with the resources God in His grace has provided for them. If Jesus did not keep Himself to Himself how much more so do we learn positively from the eight commandment to share and not take that which is not ours. Adam in the Garden is called a steward. He is to see the trees, animals, and the land as not his, but God’s, and through that he is to ensure that it is well maintained and that every part of it flourishes. That will only happen if Adam keeps in his mind the right relationship to what is God’s and what is his. His eating of the forbidden fruit was as much theft as it was a breaking of the first table of the law. Israel’s grumbling was as much a forsaking of the goodness of Jehovah’s gift as it was sin against the third commandment.
It’s helpful sometimes that we expand our minds understanding of the way we relate to the particulars of the law of God. If the Lord has given of Himself for us, and that has been for our good, how much more so then is it for us to go and do likewise to others? In the requirements found in Q. 141 we read of things like rendering to everyone his due and justice in contracts and commerce. Remember that part of our keeping the law is considering love of neighbor. If I am a fiduciary loan officer it is sin to charge exorbitant interest (usury was a major concern of the Reformers). If I am selling a car to someone it is my duty as the seller to make sure that I am not only selling the vehicle at a fair price, but that it works exactly like I said it does in the ad. To do otherwise is not just a violation of the eighth, It also is breaking the sixth and ninth as well. The call to a provident care of all the goods we have acquired through lawful means is a reminder that we are not to waste what we have. While we’ll hear more about what wasting is next week as we get into the items the law tells us not to do, it is important to be frugal, that is wise in our recollection that tomorrow is not promised. Providence may darken, so take care you have when a need arises. Wisdom is much needed, but it is grounded in the knowledge of whose money it is.
In closing, as we approach the law of God positively, as a blessing to be rested in, and as we see the eighth commandment as a means of loving one another well with the money and physical objects we have received either through hard work (which is commended here and elsewhere) or other ways it is part and parcel of the keeping of this statute that we begin with question number one that I asked above. What has the Lord shown us? Let us go and do likewise.
Here is a word on usury:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church