Get Rich Quick! (For Real)

The 8th Commandment is “You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15

Evangelicals have always emphasized God’s care about the internal state and relationships, but sometimes we tend to neglect His cares about the outward circumstances of people. The Biblical moral requirement which God places on individuals and societies is to “love their neighbor” by maintaining and furthering their outward estate. Certainly our own outward estate is included in this because we are to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”

 

God cares about the material dealings between a man and his neighbor. In Psalm 15, David asked “LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?” and the answer was given: “The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; 3 whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; 4 who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the LORD; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; 5 who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.” Also in Zechariah 7:10 God says, “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ And in the next chapter he says: “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD. (Zech 8:16, 17) From these passages we see that truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man are a part of God’s Holy character and His moral requirement for us.

God’s concern for our outward estate is displayed in the blessing and promise that He gave to the Patriarchs, and in the Law of Moses. Abraham’s promise and blessing was not limited to internal joy, peace happiness, and hope. It also included external prosperity in the promised land, numerous descendants, wealth, health and peace. God delights to give external prosperity to His people.

In the Law of Moses it is particularly evident in God’s attitude toward stealing and restitution. In Lev.6:2-5The LORD said to Moses, “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving a neighbor about something entrusted to them or left in their care or about something stolen, or if they cheat their neighbor, 3 or if they find lost property and lie about it, or if they swear falsely about any such sin that people may commit— 4 when they sin in any of these ways and realize their guilt, they must return what they have stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to them, or the lost property they found, 5 or whatever it was they swore falsely about. They must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day they present their guilt offering.

In the New Testament as well, we see God’s care about the outward estate of man. He required restitution to be made by believers who had stolen from others. In Luke 19:8 after the Holy Spirit led Zacchaeus to repent of stealing, he stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. Jesus did not say, “No you don’t need to do that, you’re a Christian now.” Instead he said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham…” From this we can see that God desires the restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the rightful owners

God wants us to be generous and compassionate. The summary of the commandments is to love God, and love our neighbor, so we know that when the 8th commandment forbids something, the opposite duty is required. The opposite of stealing is maintaining and furthering the wealth and outward estate of our neighbor. If you look carefully at the assumptions and implications which the Bible draws from the commandment you will see that God wants us to give and lend freely, according to our abilities, and according to the needs of others.

 

The LORD Jesus said in Luke 6:30 “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back….Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” and also, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:17) I love Ephesians 4:28 because it is a clear indication that the flip opposite of stealing is giving. It says: Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” Also God tells us, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)  God will show us opportunities to “do good to all people” and sometimes in the strangest of places, and when we least expect it. The question is – will we seize the opportunities God gives us? A believer I know received a $20 Christmas gift card. While he was at a gas station one day, he overheard a clerk complaining that they didn’t have money to pay their bills, or buy Christmas presents for their kids, the believer gave them his Christmas gift card and simply said “Merry Christmas.” The clerk was speechless. How much more ready should we be to share with our brothers and sisters in need? In other words, when the commandment forbids stealing, it necessarily requires kindness, compassion, and generosity.

 

God cares about our feelings toward material goods. He tells us to moderate our feelings and behaviors towards them. This may not be readily apparent from the command, but it is implied because the only way to stop the desire to steal is to change the attitude and behavior toward material things. Why do people desire wealth in the first place? There seem to be many motivations, but they all boil down to the pursuit of happiness. It is ironic that Thomas Jefferson originally wrote “the pursuit of property” in the Declaration of Independence. The Bible calls this idolatrous pursuit a trap because it gives false hope and pride. 1Timothy 6:9 says, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” And Galatians 6:14 says “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

 

God also wants us to keep, use, and dispose material goods that are necessary and convenient for the sustenance of our nature, and suitable to our condition. He tells us in Proverbs 27:23-27 to Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations. When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen, And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, The lambs will be for your clothing, And the goats will bring the price of a field, And there will be goats’ milk enough for your food, For the food of your household, And sustenance for your maidens.”  In Ecclesiastes 2: 24-26 and 3:12-13 it says: There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight.” …“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.” Paul told Timothy to “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good [m]works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Timothy 6:17-18)

 

God actually cares about the orderliness of our outward estate and material possessions. Aside from the laws of cleanliness which He gave Israel, and the orderliness of the worship and government he set up, there is also orderliness expected for the individual’s affairs. One example is in Isaiah 38:1 Hezekiah, the king of Judah was mortally ill, and God told him to “set his house in order.” Why would God have said this if He did not care how Hezekiah conducted his material affairs? God does care because He knows these have a direct bearing on the rest of our lives.

 

Have you ever heard the sayings: “God is a God of neatness and order” and “cleanliness is next to Godliness?” While these have been laid aside by many Christians today, they are still true and helpful sayings. It is important to God that we do our best to keep a clean and orderly home and business.  Have you ever seen a Christian with a continually filthy car, or house? We all struggle with managing time demands but a mature believer will do their best to keep their persons, belongings, and businesses orderly and clean because 1) all these things belong to God and we are entrusted with their care 2) God desires them to be kept in order and doing so honors Him 3) they are more useful and profitable when properly maintained 4) they are more aesthetically pleasing and attractive to others, a better reflection of God’s beauty and order 5) they are more enjoyable that way. As parents we need to be teaching our kids not only what to do, but why.

 

God wants us to find and remain in a lawful calling. In Genesis 2:15 we see that after the man was created, God gave him a specific job to do, namely cultivating and keeping the garden.  In Genesis 3:19 that job turned in to labor and toil, but was still required. The idea of remaining in our calling comes from 1 Corinthians 7:20 where it Paul wrote “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”

 

God wants us to be diligent in our callings.  He says, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”(Eph 4:28) Notice the diligence here is not for selfish gain, but for sharing! Quite the opposite of selfish ambition, here is the unselfish ambition of love. In Proverbs 10:4 God says, Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Need I say that poverty is undesirable because not only do you have nothing to eat yourself, but also nothing to share with others.

 

God wants us to be frugal. Jesus was the example of frugality. In John 6:12 after He had fed the five thousand he didn’t say “Alright boys, the rest is for the birds.” No, He said, “gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”  The result of this type of type of frugality is declared in Proverbs 21:20 “There is treasure to be desired, and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a fool spendeth it up.” Hence the saying “waste not, want not.” God wants us to be conservative in the use of our resources because He loves u s, and wants to make sure that we always have enough treasure and oil for ourselves and others.

 

God wants us to avoid unnecessary law suits. Even though God want us to “maintain and further the wealth and outward estates of ourselves and others” He does not want us to do it in an ungodly way. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-9 Paul rebuked believers who went to law against other believers over such matters. Instead they should have sought to work out their disputes through the Church courts.

There is however such a thing as a necessary law suit. Thomas Vincent explains:

“Question: Is it lawful, in the sight of God, to make use of the laws of men to recover or defend that which is our own, when it is said by our Savior (Matt. 5:40), “If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also?” and by the apostle (1 Cor. 6:7), “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another; why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”

Answer: 1.Neither of these places of Scripture does absolutely forbid the making use of the law at all, or at any time, for the defense or recovery of our right. 2. That of our Savior doth forbid contention; and rather than to uphold it, to part with some of our right, such as a coat or a cloak, or any such smaller goods, which, without much prejudice, we might spare; but it doth not hence follow, if another should wrong us in a greater matter, and seek to undo us, that we ought to let him take all which we have in the world, without seeking our right by the laws under which we live; for if this were so, all sincere Christians would quickly be robbed and spoiled by the wicked, amongst whom they live, of all their livelihood. 3. That of the apostle doth forbid Christians going to law one with another before the heathen and infidel magistrates, which was a scandal to the Christian religion which they did profess; and he tells them, they ought rather to make up their differences about wrong and right amongst them-selves, and to suffer wrong rather than do anything to the prejudice of the gospel; but this doth not prohibit Christians, in a Christian commonwealth, to defend or recover their own by law; yet, so much is forbidden in these places, namely, the contending at law about small matters, especially in case of scandal, and the using the law at all, if there be not necessity. 4. That it is lawful in the sight of God to make use of the laws of men for defense or recovery of our right, is evident, from God’s appointment of a magistracy to execute those laws, who would be of no use might we not have the benefit of the laws; and because those laws are suitable to the judicial laws of God’s own appointment, which the children of Israel ought make use of for the defense and recovery of their right; and by the same reason Christians may do so too.”[i]

Not only should we avoid suing others, we should also avoid liability to be sued. We are told to “turn the other cheek” and give up our cloak in addition to our tunic, if someone sues us, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do everything we can to avoid be sued in the first place. We should strive to be “above reproach” and “avoid even the appearance of evil” in the conduct of our work.

 

God wants us to avoid unnecessarily endangering our wealth and outward estate. That means we should avoid situations like suretyship, gambling, certain types of investing, and other similar engagements. Suretyship is when you place yourself in a position to get stuck “holding the bag” when someone else doesn’t fulfill their obligations to pay or do what they promised they would pay or do for a third party. For example: co-signing on a loan is a type of suretyship that should be avoided if at all possible.  God says, “My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another, if you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:  Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! 4 Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler. (Proverbs 6:1-6) and He also says, “He who puts up security for another will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe.” (Prov 11:15).  A good steward does not take unnecessary risks with his master’s belongings.

 

God wants us to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own. Over and over again God tells His people to look after one another, and take care of each other. In Leviticus 25:35, Deuteronomy 22:1-4 and Exodus 23:4-5 He is explicit:

“‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.

If you see your brother’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to him.

If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is, take it home with you and keep it until he comes looking for it. Then give it back to him. 3 Do the same if you find your brother’s donkey or his cloak or anything he loses. Do not ignore it.

If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.” In Genesis 47 God gives us an example of this in Joseph who furthered his neighbor’s wealth when he sold grain and collected the money from the people, and when he bought the lands for Pharaoh in Egypt. In the New Testament God tells us: Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:4 and Jesus says it most clearly in Matthew 22:39“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

 

All these things are summed up in the Westminster Larger Catechism question number 141:

 

What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due, restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary law-suits, and suretiship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[i] Thomas Vincent, Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture

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About Gary Stiltner
The LORD Jesus is the foundation, focus and purpose of my life. My God has truly blessed me, and done great things for me! I am loved by a wonderful wife, Elisabeth, and we have four beautiful children. Even though I'm a very sinful and weak person, His blood has washed me whiter than snow, and his love has made me filled with eternal happiness! I want to share His grace and truth with every person I that come into contact with. I received my BS (Molecular Biology) at Louisiana Tech University, and my M.Div at RTS in Charlotte, NC. I've had the privilege of serving as an outreach and evangelism pastor, a church planter and now as a teacher. I teach worldviews and apologetics, chemistry and physics to high school seniors. I also enjoy preaching at various churches as the LORD gives opportunity.

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