What God Would Have Us Not Do With Our Money
As we get into the sins of the eighth commandment there can be a sense where what we think and read in the statute only really applies to people with a lot of money. Turn on a TV and all you see is reports of Billionaire x and/or company y defrauding millions of people out of their retirement. Events like that only reconfirm our preconceptions. You need not be surprised at such, a tale as old as time, however, greed and avarice are not sins of wealth, like all other transgressions of the law they begin in the heart. And like all other decisions to break the rules and regulations of the Bible their genesis is found in a lack of trust in the living God. Has He provided sufficiently for your needs? We confess yes, but do we act with such thanksgiving and love? That’s the question the eighth commandment has for us today. Will we trust in His means in the gathering together of necessary temporal things or seek to circumvent the natural processes? God has called us to work, and to work hard, and to steward our resources well.
Here are the Q/A’s for today:
Q. 142: What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, manstealing, and receiving any thing that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing landmarks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depopulations; ingrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbour what belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God has given us.
Sins such as purchasing lottery tickets and engaging in games of chance like sports betting or pulling a lever in the hopes of matching cherries exhibit not only wasteful gaming in their literal sense, but also they spiritually defraud us of witnessing rightfully to the mercies of the Lord in His graciousness to His own. Part of the counsel of God in keeping the eighth commandment is the way in which we illustrate to unbelievers that we understand that this world is not our home, and while Christians may by providence become earthly rich, our hope and peace is found in things not made with human hands. There is nothing wrong with having a lot of stuff in and of itself. Lydia’s personal fortune made it possible for Believers at Thyatira a place to worship. She also was able to take care of many diaconal needs through her faithful giving. Our culture as a whole was better off when the elites were spending their wealth in ways that benefited all of society by philanthropic gifts. Rather than hording it or plunging it into their veins, they built buildings (especially churches) that still stand today. God’s providential blessing in wealth is for the goodness of the community, and when the upper class was at least culturally Christian they understood that, and kept the eighth commandment by common grace in that way.
A few of the other listings of sins mark out (no pun intended) another aspect of how contemporary America, and many places in the modern West break the law explicitly and implicitly. Take removing landmarks as one example. The past is a treasure the present is called to maintain and receive with care. When we abandon the victories of our forefathers we are wasting their labors, in effect stealing from them. Destroying monuments paid for by their sweat and honor is emblematic of this evil. That’s not to say if our ancestors built a giant statue to Molech we should not remove it from our presence, faithful kings do such in the Scriptures. The point here is that we who have received much have much to steward for the generations who follow after us. Jacobite hatred of men not only robs us of historical peace, but introduces the kind of jealous warfare which involves the death of many innocents. The Bible is concerned with just weights and measures, and that is as much a matter of well-maintained scales for grain as it is the duties between men. If you desire the honor of your brother quiet will be the reward.
Probably the most current sin to what we are dealing with today that we think so little about now is usury. Its history in the West is interesting to say the least. Fractional banking, which most of our economy is based on, was nearly universally considered against the eighth commandment by the writers of our catechism. The idea of a bank lending more than they have on hand at any one time has led to a number of financial panics in the past several hundred years. Our WLC would say it is a form of fraud. Exodus 22:26 says:
“If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down.”
If you follow the logic of the verses it tells you that not only is interest questionable (especially interest that is compounded), but that if you are going to take a garment for a loan, you better have the garment to give back. Our Great Depression and the boom and bust cycle that has become a regular feature of capitalist economies are directly related to the warnings listed in the word of God about how we use our money.
In closing, I use this as an illustration of the breaking of the eighth commandment because often it is the case that we don’t really think deeply about what the Bible has to say about many of the things we consider to be a normal mode of operations in the world in which we live. It is worth the effort to remember that our God is wiser than we are, and He knows our hearts and weakness, especially around money.
Here is a word more on banking:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church