You Shall Not Steal…

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“You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). We have no “right” to another’s goods, or property. We are commanded to be just in our handling of, and our caring for, the just fruits of our labors and those of our neighbors. This is for the sake of the common good, as well as our own good. A Christian is admonished to order the goods of the world to both God and to fraternal love.

When God created the world he entrusted it to us telling us to steward the things of creation, for the common good, not just for the self. We are to work and to enjoy the fruits of our labors. We are to remember that creation was given to all of humanity, not just the few. We are challenged here to remember the common dignity of every human being, because every human being is made in God’s image and likeness. We are all brothers and sisters and we are to honor that relationship spiritually, socially, and, yes, economically. We are to help all to meet their basic needs, especially those who, for whatever reason, are not able to meet those needs on their own.

The right to property and its safekeeping belongs to all of us. That is, property that is acquired and received in a just way. This does not do away with the original gift of the earth to all mankind. We are to consider the things that we own not merely as exclusive to ourselves, but common to others as well. What does this mean? It means that if we see another in distress, whose needs are not being met, we ought to be generous enough with what we have acquired and received to share it with others.

In economic matters, we are to remember the infinite dignity of the other at all times. It is a matter of the virtue of justice. One of the great virtues of the Christian life is that of temperance. Temperance is, the ability to moderate our attachment to material goods. Temperance and the virtue of Justice, allows us to recognize and to preserve our neighbor’s rights, and to render to them what is their due. In honoring these virtues, we also give credence to the solidarity, that is,the universal brotherhood, that God calls us to as Christians. If I respect my fellow human beings in this way, the idea of stealing another’s goods would never come to me. In respecting the other’s goods, and his right to them as a result of his labors, I am respecting his/her infinite dignity.

Lord, free us from the slavery of material desires like greed and jealousy. Teach us the wisdom of humility. Help us to see that a love for earthly, material things takes us away from you. In you we see our example, for you gave your all, everything you possessed, body, soul, and divinity, without hesitation, out of your infinite love for each of us, even though we were burdened by our sinful poverty. Give us a sense of balance, so that we may always keep you uppermost in our minds, and so that we may learn to love all others as you loved us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.