You shall not steal. Exodus 20:15
“This commandment, therefore, we shall duly obey, if, contented with our own lot, we study to acquire nothing but honest and lawful gain; if we long not to grow rich by injustice, nor to plunder our neighbour of his goods, that our own may thereby be increased; if we hasten not to heap up wealth cruelly wrung from the blood of others; if we do not, by means lawful and unlawful, with excessive eagerness scrape together whatever may glut our avarice or meet our prodigality.
On the other hand, let it be our constant aim faithfully to lend our counsel and aid to all so as to assist them in retaining their property; or if we have to do with the perfidious or crafty, let us rather be prepared to yield somewhat of our right than to contend with them. And not only so, but let us contribute to the relief of those whom we see under the pressure of difficulties, assisting their want out of our abundance.”
John Calvin (1509-1564) in The Institutes of the Christian Religion (Grand Rapids: CCEL) 253.
As we explore the theme of “abundance” through church history, our journey has brought us to the Reformation. Calvin reminds us, in plain terms, that the biblical idea of stealing is taking for ourselves what God intends for all. Consequently, he alerts us not to focus on accumulation as compared to our neighbors, but to share out of any the abundance God supplies to those under pressure of difficulties.
And, don’t miss his instruction to “lend our counsel and aid” to others. In his thinking, sometimes a person needs a “hand out” because they are in crisis. We must also give people a “hand up” to show them how to live following God’s design. Few mapped that out more extensively than Calvin in The Institutes of the Christian Religion. When we “lend our counsel and aid” we show the Christian faith.
Calvin charges followers of Christ to be “contented with our own lot” in a world filled with discontentment. The desire for things, whether lawfully or unlawfully gained, hurts those afflicted with it because it leads them to practice accumulation and prodigality (excessive spending) and also hinders their generosity. Things are only for enjoyment and sharing to meet the “want” of others.Read more