For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q73

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q63-81) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The Second Table. (see Harmony Index)
We now begin to look at the eighth commandment. In considering this, it may be prudent to view Fisher’s catechism instruction, and note the following comments in Q&A form:
Q. 1. What is the subject matter of this commandment?
A. The wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.
Q. 2. What does it require with reference to these?
A. The procuring and furthering of them.
Q. 3. In what manner does it enjoin us to procure and further them?
A. Only in a lawful manner; for it requires the LAWFUL procuring and furthering of them.
Q. 4. Whose wealth is it we should procure and further?
A. Our own wealth, and that of others.
Q. 5. By what lawful means should we procure and further OUR OWN wealth?
A. By labour and industry in some honest calling, Eph. 4:28.
It is interesting to note that Fisher goes on to list a total of 28 Q&As regarding catechism questions 73 and 74. I mention this because as we approach this commandment—and, in fact, each of the Ten Commandments—we might think we already understand the point. After all, we already understand that we are not to steal, isn’t it quite obvious on the mere face of it?  Maybe so, but as we go “deeper” in our studies we know the heart is deceitful above all things; we’ll find there are actually many ways we can apply the instruction of the eighth command to our daily activities beyond mere surface understanding. The great fathers of our faith had much to say on this matter, and their commentaries and sermons provide a wealth of instruction, worthy of further examination.
Again, may we humbly approach our study of these things in prayer that the Lord would teach and enable us to believe and do all that is pleasing in his sight.
WSC Q73. Which is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.[a]
[a] Ex. 20:15; Deut. 5:19
Question #73 asks what the eighth commandment is, and answers that the eighth commandment is: You shall not steal.
Comments and considerations:
Our catechism instruction continues its cycle of instruction, first asking which is the eighth commandment, and then, what is required and forbidden in it. Asking, “Which is the eight commandment?” reminds us that God has carefully placed each one of his commandments for our learning. We have mentioned before that the first four commandments address our vertical relationship with God and that the last six deal with our horizontal relationships with one another. The fifth commandment addresses the fundamental relations within that first divinely established institution—the family—dealing with the respect children owe to their parents. From this basic foundation for an orderly society comes the protection of human life in the sixth commandment; then the protection of marriage and the covenant union of man and women in the seventh commandment; and then the sanctioning of ownership and protection of personal property.
From the eighth commandment we learn the principle of stewardship. Man has been entrusted with the wealth of creation, and has command over it. That was God’s providential purpose from the very beginning:
“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. (Gen. 1:26-29)
We are not our own. God has given each of us gifts and a place to serve as stewards of what he has placed in our care. Our Savior speaks of the opportunities of stewardship in the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-29); although theft is not directly mentioned there, we come to understand that ultimately “The earth is the Lord’s and fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1). We are mere stewards, called to go about our business his way, respecting and honoring the order, authorities, and boundaries he has established for the welfare of society, human life, marriage, and personal property. Faithfulness in stewardship brings blessings; but failure to heed the covenant mandate brings danger.
As is my practice, I’m choosing one word for further study; this time, it’s the simple word steal. The definition is straightforward and unsurprising: 1) to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, especially secretly or by force - as in “A pickpocket stole his watch;” 2) to appropriate (ideas, credit, words, etc.) without right or acknowledgment. Nothing unexpected there; but notice a third definition: 3) to take, get, or win insidiously, surreptitiously, subtly, or by chance. The sins prohibited by this commandment range from petty theft, to great bank robberies; from cheating on one’s taxes, to Wall Street embezzlement. These days, the phrase “culture of corruption” is common; a shoplifting teenager, an unwise policymaker who has been entrusted with the welfare of our nation and its future—both could be described as insidious, surreptitious, and subtle; and both are taking a chance as they gamble with the future and the judgment of God upon those who violate his covenant law with apparent impunity.
The eighth commandment is quite clear. To use a modern phrase, “What part of Thou shalt not steal do we not understand?” Well, looking around our society these days, apparently quite a lot!
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        In Starr Meade’s Shorter Catechism devotional guide, several significant points are made in the first paragraph related to this eighth commandment. Read Rom. 13:7-8 and her comments, and answer the following questions:
o   What do the first four of the Ten Commandments focus upon?
o   What do the first four commandments warn us against?
o   How or in what way(s) do we fail if we do not heed this warning?
o   What do the last six of the Ten Commandments focus upon?
o   What are some of ways we are to respect and love others in the keeping of the eighth commandment?
2.        The keeping of the eighth command is expressed in various ways throughout Scripture; for example, see Matt. 7:12. How can this familiar verse be applied to the command, “You shall not steal”?
3.        Taking what does not belong to us begins with our thoughts. What does I Tim. 6:6-10 warn concerning our thinking patterns?
4.        What is the opposite of greed (the inordinate desire for things and possessions)? See Phil. 4:11-13.
5.        We see in Phil. 4 how the apostle Paul had learned the right attitude about worldly possessions, as others have demonstrated in various parts of Scripture. For example, what lessons can we learn from the words of Job in Job 1:20-21?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q73 and WLC 140
WSC Q73. Which is the eighth commandment?
A.  The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal[a].
[a]   Ex. 20:15; Deut. 5:19
WLC Q140. Which is the eighth commandment?
A.  The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal[a].
      [a]  Exod. 20:15
Question(s) for further study:

The Shorter and Larger Catechisms are virtually identical here.  But for further consideration, it has been said that the eighth commandment is the one commandment that can be applied to all the other commandments.  Is that true, and of so how?

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