Question 110. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?
Answer: God forbids not only those thefts, (a) and robberies, (b) which are punishable by the magistrate; but he comprehends under the name of theft all wicked tricks and devices, whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbour: (c) whether it be by force, or under the appearance of right, as by unjust weights, ells, measures, fraudulent merchandise, (d) false coins, usury, (e) or by any other way forbidden by God; as also all covetousness, (f) all abuse and waste of his gifts. (g)
(a) 1 Cor.6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (b) 1 Cor.5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. Isa.33:1 Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee. (c) Luke 3:14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. 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. (d) Prov.11:1 A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. Prov.16:11 A just weight and balance are the LORD’S: all the weights of the bag are his work. Ezek.45:9 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD. Ezek.45:10 Ye shall have just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath. Ezek.45:11 The ephah and the bath shall be of one measure, that the bath may contain the tenth part of an homer, and the ephah the tenth part of an homer: the measure thereof shall be after the homer. Ezek.45:12 And the shekel shall be twenty gerahs: twenty shekels, five and twenty shekels, fifteen shekels, shall be your maneh. Deut.25:13 Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Deut.25:14 Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. Deut.25:15 But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. Deut.25:16 For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God. (e) Ps.15:5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. Luke 6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (f) 1 Cor.6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (g) Prov.23:20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: Prov.23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags. Prov.21:20 There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.
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.
I.) Stealing From God (Vertical)
A.) All abuse and waste of His gifts
God has entrusted each one of us with talents and giftedness. If we allow these gifts to go undeveloped or unused we are guilty of stealing from God. (Matthew 25:13-30).
Similarly, when we use God given gifts and abilities for our own glory and advance instead of with the purpose of glorifying and advancing God’s cause we are guilty of stealing from God.
When we are not obedient to God we are stealing from God. When we seek to dismiss His claims against us in terms of His law counsel we are stealing from God.
When we violate the first table
Worshiping false gods
Worshiping the true god in false ways
Taking God’s name in vain
Violating the Sabbath
We violate the 8th commandment for we steal from God’ reputation and steal His glory.
II.) Stealing From Others
This commandment demands just price and just wages.
When we seek to charge more than a product is worth we are stealing. When we do not give what a worker deserves OR if as a worker we demand more in wages than we are giving out in production we are stealing. When we are lazy at the workplace we are stealing. When we require too much from a worker in comparison to what we pay them we are stealing.
False coins — Counterfeiting
Zacharias Ursinus in his Commentary on the Catechism wrote, ‘Usury is the gain which is received in view of that which has been borrowed or loaned’
“Usury originally signified what is now called interest, or simply a compensation for the use of money. The Jews were not permitted to take interest from their brethren for the use of money loaned; and when the Levitical law forbids the taking of usury, the prohibition intended is that of any gain or compensation for the use of money or goods. Hence, usury in the scriptures is what we call interest. The change of signification in the word usury, which now denotes unlawful interest, renders it proper to substitute interest for usury.”
In the ancient world interest on loans (usury) was seen as violation of the 8th commandment. The Church would from time to time speak as if there were exceptions but on the whole it spoke with one voice against Usury.
“Once upon a time, certainly from at least 1150 to 1550, seeking, receiving, or hoping for anything beyond one’s principal – in other words, looking for profit – on a loan constituted the mortal sin of usury. The doctrine was enunciated by popes, expressed by three ecumenical councils, proclaimed by bishops, and taught unanimously by theologians. The doctrine was not some obscure, hole-in-the-corner affection, but stood astride the European credit markets, at least as much as the parallel Islamic ban of usury governs Muslim countries today…The great central moral fact was that usury, understood as profit on a loan, was forbidden as contrary to the natural law, as contrary to the law of the church, and as contrary to the law of the gospel.”
(John T. Noonan, Jr., “Development in Moral Doctrine’ in James F. Keenan S.J. & Thomas A. Shannon (eds), The Context of Casuistry (Georgetown University Press, 1995), p.188.)
Harold Berman in his book “Law & Revolution” insists that there were times that the Church would allow usury.
With the Reformation there was a slight alteration in the matter of usury was normed as Business interests came to the fore.
Calvin expressed himself on usury in a 1545 letter to a friend, Claude de Sachin,
“For if we should totally prohibit the practice of usury, we would restrain consciences more rigidly than God himself” Calvin went on to argue that “we ought not to judge usury according to a few passages of scripture, but in accordance with the principle of equity.”
He qualified his view, however, by saying that money should be lent to people in dire need without hope of interest, while a modest interest rate of 5% should be permitted in relation to other borrowers.
Some have read the Heidelberg as pronouncing a complete ban on interest. Some have read this as a ban on excessive interest thus begging the question of how we determine when interest becomes excessive. One thing is certain is that usury has become a means by which people are enslaved to their debt. Creditors understand this and so often it is the case that when they lend money they know well that in doing so they are creating debt slaves. This doesn’t remove the responsibility of people to avoid debt and usury, rather it merely acknowledges that those who purposely create money systems where the citizenry, in order to function, must become debt slaves will themselves likewise be held responsible for violation of the 8th commandment.
III.) Stealing As A Public Square Good
Inflation is when the Government artificially increases either the money supply or the availability of cheap credit. As money or credit increase producers can and do raise the prices for their goods because there is more money in circulation with which to purchase those goods. The theft in all of this is in the fact that when new money is injected into the economy, an increase in prices result. This increase in price does not hurt those who first spend the newly created money as the prices they pay for goods is based on the old money supply quotient. However, for those who are on fixed or stable incomes their dollars now have less purchasing power value as prices have increased in response to a greater amount of money being available. The increase of the money supply has stolen from these people real value. Thou Shalt not steal.
Inflation also is theft from the creditor in favor of the borrower. Inflation makes for cheap money. Creditors paid off with cheap money suddenly find that whatever it is they sold, they sold at less value then they thought they had. If I sell a good for $50.00 when a dollar was worth a dollar but because of inflation I am paid back $50.00 in dollars that are only worth .93 cents on the dollar due to purposeful inflationary practices I have had .07 cents on the dollar stolen from me. Thou Shalt not Steal.
Inflation also is theft from those who save in favor of those who spend. In point of fact Inflation discourages saving in favor of spending. If I place 50.00 in my savings account at 6 percent interest while the rate of inflation is 13% the 50.00 I saved will not be worth as much when I finally take the money out because inflation has done its thieving work.
So, this kind of theft not only does the damage that all theft does but it also does the damage of changing the mindset of a people so that they go from being thrifty to being wasteful. We go from “a penny saved is a penny earned,” to “a penny saved is half a penny lost.”
So, Inflation is what the Heidelberg Catechism calls a wicked trick and device, whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbor. We are guilty of this kind of theft and of violating the 8th commandment when we vote for people who support inflationary economics. ”
B.) Ponzi Schemes
Though Charles Ponzi wasn’t the first to practice theft via Ponzi schemes his name because associated with these kind of wicked tricks and devices.
Ponzi convinced people to allow him to invest their money. Once given the money Ponzi simply took the money he was given by later investors and gave it to his early investors, providing those early investors with a handsome profit. Along the way Ponzi feathered his own nest with the stolen monies. Ponzi then used these satisfied early investors as advertisements to get more investors. Unfortunately, in order to keep paying previous investors, Ponzi had to continue finding more and more new investors. Eventually, he couldn’t expand the number of new investors fast enough, to cover the expected return of his old investors and the scheme collapsed. Ponzi was convicted of fraud and sent to prison.
Ponzi was practicing a wicked trick and device designed to appropriate to himself the goods of his neighbor.
Interestingly enough the vast majority of the money you pay in Social Security taxes, like the money that Ponzi took in from his investors, is not invested in anything. Instead, the money you pay into the system is used to pay benefits to those “early investors” who are retired today. When you retire, you will have to rely on the next generation of workers behind you to pay the taxes that will finance your benefits.
This is a classic Ponzi scheme and it remains a wicked trick and device designed to appropriate to those who established it the goods which belonged to their neighbor. The fact that it has become legal does not make it moral or in keeping with the 8th commandment.
Of course, Social Security and Ponzi schemes are not perfectly analogous.
Ponzi could only shake down willing volunteer investors. Once he failed in gaining new investors his scheme collapsed.
Social Security, on the other hand, can rely on governmental force to keep the scheme afloat. As the shrinking number of workers paying into the system makes it harder to continue to sustain benefits, the government can just force young people to pay even more into the system.
In fact, Social Security taxes have been raised some 40 times since the program began. The initial Social Security tax was 2 percent (split between the employer and employee), capped at $3,000 of earnings. That made for a maximum tax of $60. Today, the tax is 12.4 percent, capped at $106,800, for a maximum tax of $13,234. Even adjusting for inflation, that represents more than an 800 percent increase. That increase as well as the program itself violates God’s word of “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”
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.”
Calvin certainly would have understood that confiscatory taxation is a wicked trick and device
In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels stated that the Communist theory could be expressed in one single phrase-“abolition of private property.”
To the contrary God’s word supports and protects the reality of private property.