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 20, 2020

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q75

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q63-81) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The Second Table. (see Harmony Index)
One little exercise I enjoy is taking one word from a text under consideration, looking up its meaning and usage both in the English language and in Scripture, and then putting the word back into the text to gain deeper understanding within the full context. As we study what is forbidden in the eighth commandment, we might choose to do this with the word unjustly. The words justly and unjustly are found in relatively few places in Scripture. But one occurrence which is relevant to the present study is Micah 6:8—“He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” This verse ought to be considered in its context, and a parallel reference helpful here is Hosea 6:6, and its context as well.
We serve a God who by his very nature—infinite, eternal, and unchangeable—is just. As we are called to give witness to him, may we prayerfully consider what it means to “do justly,” and shun the unjust hindering of “our own, or our neighbor’s, wealth or outward estate,” as we serve one another and honor God. To do otherwise is to do violence to the very heart and purpose of our God.
WSC Q75. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A.   The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbour’s, wealth or outward estate[a].
[a] Prov. 28:19ff; Eph. 4:28a; II Thess. 3:10; I Tim. 5:8
Question #75 asks what the eighth commandment forbids, and answers that the eighth commandment forbids anything that either does or may unjustly take away money or possessions from us or anyone else.
Comments and considerations:
In our previous study, we looked at the requirements of the eighth commandment, the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others. We focused on the term lawful, seeing that God has revealed his law in both his Word and nature; we are to study these things and reason rightly to the wellbeing of ourselves and others (II Tim. 2:15). Now we consider this commandment from another perspective - that which it forbids. Once again, our fathers refer to the law, mentioning justice, which is the fruit of the law: we are not to do those things that would unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbour’s, wealth or outward estate.
To say that God is interested in justice is an understatement. He is quite emphatic when he says through the prophet Micah, “He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Mic. 6:8). The Apostle Paul warns, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). Ideas have consequences. The imaginative ideas of men - loosened from the anchor of sound reasoning and wisdom captive to the thoughts of Christ (II Cor. 10:5) - will often look for easy answers to difficult questions. In time, their plans will run aground, the deceitful heart being full of greed, selfishness, and man-centered philosophies opposed to godly thinking. Notice how this consideration demonstrates the weight of the phrase whatsoever doth, or may unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbour’s, wealth or outward estate. There is no room here for trifling debates about what God clearly commands; we are accountable for our actions and for their real and potential outcomes as we seek to be responsible stewards with the talents that the Lord has entrusted to us for our own and our neighbor’s welfare (Matt. 25:14ff). The implications of this commandment are certainly far-reaching.
What does it mean to hinder something? Without going into the etymology of the word, which is quite interesting, the word simply means to impede, hamper, to cause delay, prevent from doing or making progress, encumber. This has many eighth-commandment applications (e.g., paying off debts, conducting business and personal financial affairs, making wise investments to assist community enterprise). But at the core, the commandment forbids everything from theft to foolish financial decisions - anything that might prevent, impede or hamper our own or our neighbor’s productive wellbeing. Instead, we are to do those things which promote that well-being within the bounds of God’s law; we are to act justly, considering not only what is needful for man’s outward welfare, but for his soul’s need and discipline as well. What should be our concern for the able-bodied individual who refuses to work, or refuses to heed wise counsel while being foolish in the management of financial affairs? Is it just to allow that person to continue on a destructive path “unhindered?” On that point, our fathers referenced these verses:
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat (II Thess. 3:10).
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need (Eph. 4:28).
Read carefully Prov. 28:19 and the several verses that follow it: “He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!” Proverbs is filled with wisdom and illustrations regarding those who are unproductive and a drain upon others, rather than seeking blessings to be a blessing!
Again, drawing upon “Lessons from the Garden:” One day my wife asked why I was clipping bright green shoots off the lower base and trunk of a wonderful orange tree in our backyard. I explained that I had to remove these devilish little shoots called suckers, or they would suck energy from the tree, producing no fruit, and becoming a haven for insects and disease. To not remove this bramble would be to unjustly hinder the wealth or outward estate of that plant and its neighbors. Think about it! Allowing those suckers to remain on the tree would eventually hinder the forming of blossoms and sweet nectar, causing trouble for the joyful honeybee whose labor blesses us.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        The eighth commandment specifically forbids stealing. However, stealing is more than taking the property of another; it includes careless actions that cause others to lose what belongs to them. Read Ex. 22:1-6. What are the different ways an individual can be deprived of personal property? What is required of the person responsible for the loss?
2.        Read Prov. 20:17. When we obtain something by deceit, our sinful nature expects pleasurable sensations to follow. But what will be the eventual outcome? What are some ways we can deceitfully obtain things that do not belong to us? Look up deceit or deceitful in the dictionary.
3.        Prov. 25:13, refers to how we are to do our job when we work for others. What lesson is taught in this text?
4.        A person’s good name or reputation can also be unjustly stolen. See Prov. 22:1. How does that happen?
5.        Greed and the love of pleasure cause an ungodly desire for things. According to Prov. 21:17, what will be the outcome of such desires, and where is found the real treasure of life? See Prov. 15:16.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q75 and WLC 142
WSC Q75. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A.  The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbour's, wealth or outward estate[a].
      [a]  Prov. 28:19ff; Eph. 4:28a; II Thess. 3:10; I Tim. 5:8
WLC Q.142. What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required[a], are, theft[b], robbery[c], man-stealing[d], and receiving any thing that is stolen[e]; fraudulent dealing[f], false weights and measures[g], removing landmarks[h], injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man[i], or in matters of trust[j]; oppression[k], extortion[l], usury[m], bribery[n], vexatious lawsuits[o], unjust enclosures and depopulations[p];  engrossing commodities to enhance the price[q]; unlawful callings[r], and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves[s]; covetousness[t]; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods[u]; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them[v]; envying at the prosperity of others[w]; as likewise idleness[x], prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate[y], and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God hath given us[z].
[a]   Jam. 2:15-16; 1John 3:17
[b]   Eph. 4:28
[c]   Ps. 62:10
[d]   1Tim. 1:10
[e]   Prov. 29:24; Ps. 50:18
[f]    1Thes. 4:6
[g]   Prov. 11:1; 20:10
[h]   Deut. 19:14; Prov. 23:10
[i]    Amos 8:5; Ps. 37:21
[j]    Luke 16:10-12
[k]   Ezek. 22:29; Lev. 25:17
[l]    Mat. 23:25; Ezek. 22:12
[m] Ps. 15:5
[n]   Job 15:34
[o]   1Cor. 6:6-8; Prov. 3:29-30
[p]   Isa. 5:8; Micah 2:2
[q]   Prov. 11:26
[r]    Acts 19:19, 24-25
[s]   Job. 20:19; Jam. 5:4; Prov. 21:6
[t]    Luke 12:15
[u]   1Tim. 6:5; Col. 3:2; Prov. 23:5; Ps. 62:10
[v]   Mat. 6:25, 31, 34; Ecc. 5:12
[w]  Ps. 73:3; 37:1, 7
[x]   2Thes. 3:11; Prov. 18:9
[y]   Prov. 21:17; 23:20-21; 28:19
[z]   Ecc. 4:8; 6:2; 1Tim. 5:8
Question(s) for further study:

The Larger Catechisms expands upon the Shorter providing specific sins forbidden under the eighth commandments.  How many categories do our fathers list, and how might one summarize the extent, degree and manner of those things forbidden?

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