I hope you have noticed something as we have made our way through this series of God’s law. I hope you have noticed why it can be said that we are “post-Christian,” in our Culture. Our social order is no longer governed by God’s law. Our cultural Institutions and framework are structured by a law that is other than God’s law.
As a people group and culture, instead of having no other God’s before us, we believe as a people, whatever we might believe contrary-wise individually, that “in the State we live and move and have our being.”
Today, the graven images that we have is too often a love of country that outstrips love for God.
As a culture God’s name is regularly taken in vain. In a conversation w/ a Judge I learned that in court perjury is a regular occurrence.
As a people our culture no longer take the Sabbath seriously … as I witnessed 30 years ago when public commerce ceased on the Lord’s Day.
By any fair calculation the family (Honor thy Father & Mother) is disintegrating.
And who can argue that as a culture we take seriously the prohibitions against Murder, Adultery, and Theft?
This is not to suggest there are not Christians … In this very place and other places who don’t esteem God’s Law. It is merely to point out that as a culture we are “post-Christian.”
God’s law is intended to shape God’s people and structure them, as that Law comes to them as Redeemed in Christ, and yet we who are shaped by God’s law find, at every turn, another law structure next to us, cheek by jowl, that likewise seeks to shape and inform us according to the god who is the lawgiver of that law system.
And so Biblical Christians, in this post-Christian setting, invariably are the counter-culture. It should be said of us, as it was said of the early Christians when the pagan culture was threatened by their presence,
“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, (Acts 17:6)
As wicked Ahab accused righteous Elijah of being a “Troubler of Israel” because of Elijah’s stand for God, so we should be accused by our wicked culture as being “Troublers of our country,” because of our stand for the Lord Christ.
God’s law is health and vitality for those who are in Christ but those who are outside of Christ find God’s law to be accursed.
We are those who have been made righteous by Christ alone. The Scripture teaches that we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:10). It is God’s law that defines for us what good works are for us to walk in.
Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14). Our zealousness for good deeds can only successfully be demonstrated if we have a standard to define the “good” about our deeds. That “standard,” is God’s law that we have been examining week by week in this series.
Last Week we talked about
I.) Stealing From God (Vertical)
A.) All abuse and waste of His gifts
II.) Stealing From Others (Horizontal)
This commandment demands just price and just wages.
III.) Stealing In The Public Square
Inflation, Usury, Ponzi Schemes
We examined how those are what the Heidelberg Catechism calls, “Wicked tricks or Devices.”
We could have also talked about
Price and wage controls, minimum wage laws, Corporate Welfare, Entitlement programs, public debt that we incur which the income of our children and grandchildren after us must pay, and other assorted wicked trick and devices whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbour.
The passage that is cited to support the necessity to avoid these wicked tricks and devices as theft is,
1 Thess.4:6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.
They might have also cited Ephesians 4:28
Eph.4:28 Let him that stole steal no more …
There is another category of wicked tricks and devices whereby we we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbor that I would like to brush up against briefly.
Scripture in Romans 13:6-7 requires us
6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
And so clearly there is a proper due that is owed to those who rule. Because of Scriptures like this Christians can pay proper taxes as a devotion unto God.
C.) Confiscatory Taxation
Here I want to just offer some of what Calvin said on this subject,
Calvin argued for prudent limits, writing that taxes should only support public necessity; for “to impose them (taxes) upon the common folk without cause is tyrannical extortion.”
Calvin offered that obedience was a Christian duty in this area; however, he cautioned Princes not in indulge in “waste and expensive luxury,” lest they earn God’s displeasure. Again he would write on this subject, “Others drain the common people of their money, and afterward lavish it on insane largess.”
Has our tax system become confiscatory? Well, at least one area small businessman that I know of has just this past week written on this very subject,
A few years ago I computed how much of the profits that our companies have generated that I got to keep. Since every dollar in taxes starts as a dollar of profit, I figured out all the taxes we had paid corporately and personally. This included income taxes, social security taxes, sales & use taxes, franchise taxes, real estate taxes, license fees, etc. etc. I was stunned that we had paid a whopping 96% of all the profits we had generated to various governmental entities in taxes, keeping a miserable 4% for reinvestment in the business and as a reward for my work.
This small businessman then goes on to talk about what I consider to be hidden taxes,
And it has not only been the tax burden that successful entrepreneurs have to overcome, it is the regulatory ones as well. We have been forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and machinery that was totally unnecessary and has went unused for almost two decades merely because the Ruling Elites knew better than us what was good for us. We’ve been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in compliance costs to just make sure that we haven’t missed jumping through one hoop or another of the over 13,000 pages of rules and regulations that we are supposed to obey, and on and on.
Calvin certainly would have understood that this kind of confiscatory taxation is a wicked trick and devices whereby what is designed is the appropriation by violators of the 8th commandment to themselves the goods which belong to their and our neighbor. If we are to take the 8th commandment seriously and our own Catechism seriously, we will not be supporters of those who do not advocate the repealing of this kind of confiscatory taxation root, branch and twig.
However the Catechism has a “Thou Shalt” for us that corresponds to the “Thou Shalt Not.”
Question 111. But what does God require in this commandment?
Answer: That I promote the advantage of my neighbour in every instance I can or may; and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others: (a) further also that I faithfully labour, so that I may be able to relieve the needy. (b)
(a) Matt.7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (b) Eph.4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
A.) Works of Charity
Here the Golden Rule is cited. In order to esteem the 8th commandment we should be a people who look not only to our needs but also to the needs of others.
In Reformed Church History this includes not only our personal giving to others as we see need but also our support for the Deacon’s fund in the Church.
Emperor Julian of Rome is quoted,
“Nothing has contributed more to the progress of the superstition of the Christians as their charity to strangers . . . . The impious Galileans provide not only for their own poor, but for ours as well.”
They fed the poor, nursed the sick, housed the homeless, and rescued those abandoned to die.
Calvin, envisioned the Church having this mercy ministry as well,
“When I first came to this Church,” he says, “there was as good as nothing here . . . . There was preaching, and that was all.” He would have found much the same state of things everywhere else in the Protestant world. The Church in the early Protestant conception was constituted by the preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments: the correction of morals was the concern not of the Church but of the civil power…. Calvin could not take this view of the matter. “Whatever others may hold,” he observed, “we cannot think so narrowly of our office that when preaching is done our task is fulfilled, and we may take our rest.” In his view the mark of a true Church is not merely that the gospel is preached in it, but that it is “followed.” For him the Church is the “communion of saints,” and it is incumbent upon it to see to it that it is what it professes to be. From the first he therefore set himself strenuously to attain this end .
And so works of charity — mercy ministries — were hallmarks of the early Reformed Church in Geneva. Calvin himself died comparatively impoverished. Perhaps this was, in part, due to the fact that instead of soaking up the funds in his salary the funds were going to the Deacon’s fund?
B.) Protestant Work Ethic
In order to fulfill the 8th commandment we are required to labor (work) as we can. Many scholars have attributed this strong work ethic as being a major contributor to the success of Biblical Christianity. Christians understood that they were to work and give to the needy. We see here the clear call to be a blessing to others because of our work ethic. Of course that blessing is first to our family in providing for them but as God grants us abundance we are to be a blessing to others.
Let us close by asking what can be done in order to avoid stealing
What is to be done to avoid stealing?
(1) Live in a calling. ‘Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands.’ Eph 4:28, &c. The devil hires such as stand idle, and puts them to the pilfering trade. An idle person tempts the devil to tempt him.
(2) Be content with the estate that God has given you. ‘Be content with such things as ye have.’ Heb 13:5. Theft is the offspring of avarice and envy. Study contentment. Believe that condition best which God has carved out to you. He can bless the little meal in the barrel. We shall not need these things long: we shall carry nothing out of the world with us but our winding sheet. If we have but enough to bear out our charges to heaven, it is sufficient.
(3) Stay out of debt. In Proverbs 22 Scripture teaches that the borrower is the slave of the lender. There is a natural tendency of those in slavery to get out of slavery at all costs, even if it means stealing to do so. Our whole economic system drives us towards debt. The temptation to theft will be far less upon those who are not in debt.
(4) Find ways to stewardship of what God is given you so that you can save against the day of need. When I lived in South Carolina a reasonably well to do Farmer told me that if “I took care of my pennies, my dollars would take care of themselves.”
(5) Entrust yourself to God’s providence. While it is true that we should
Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
7 Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
8 Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.
9 How long will you lie down, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
10 “ A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest”—
11 Your poverty will come in like a vagabond
And your need like an armed man.
It is also true that we are
31 not to worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But [s]seek first [t]His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be [u]added to you.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will [v]care for itself. [w]Each day has enough trouble of its own.
If we are a hard working people, and wise with our stewardship of God’s resources to us, then we must entrust ourselves to God’s providence, especially at those times when thieving, in one form or another, to relieve our distress might be tempting.