110 Q. What does God forbid
in the eighth commandment?
A. God forbids not only outright theft^1 and robbery,^2
punishable by law.
But in God’s sight theft also includes
all scheming and swindling
in order to get our neighbor’s goods for ourselves,
whether by force or means that appear legitimate,^3
inaccurate measurements of weight,^4 size, or volume;^5
or any other means forbidden by God.
In addition God forbids all greed^7
and pointless squandering of his gifts.^8
^1 1 Cor. 6:10
^2 1 Cor. 5:10
^3 Luke 3:14; 1Thess. 4:6
^4 Prov. 11:1; 16:11
^5 Ezek. 45:9[-11]; Deut. 25:13[-16]
^6 Ps. 15:5; Luke 6:35
^7 1 Cor. 6:10
^8 Prov. 5:16
111 Q. What does God require of you
in this commandment?That I do whatever I can
A. That I do whatever I can
for my neighbor’s good,
that I treat others
as I would like them to treat me,^1
and that I work faithfully
so that I may share with those in need.^2
^1 Matt. 7:12
LORD’S DAY 42 (Q/A 110-111)
“Stewardship of Generosity”
It is true that we can feel overwhelmed with the enormous amount of need, feeling like we must do everything to help, and we end up scrambling to do anything that we end up doing nothing. A generous spirit doesn’t assess the quantifiable; a generous spirit just gives.
This is not reckless abandonment; we are to be wise with our resources. Yet when we are conditioned to take, to stand up for our rights, to seek that which we feel we are entitled to or what we are told we are entitled to, we miss out on opportunities to share in that which God supplies. Why share? Yes, because God desires for us to give what we have freely received. Yes, because if you have that which your neighbor needs you have a moral responsibility to assist in his/her need. And yes, our mothers and grandmothers are right…stealing is just plain bad, giving is just plain good.
But lest we all of a sudden become generous philanthropists (which would be great) for charity and philanthropy’s sake, Q/A 110-111 does not prescribe philanthropy; its attention is human flourishing to the glory of God; its trajectory is outward and upward. A few years ago our family went to Paris. In the Saint-Chapelle there are a series of stained-glass windows that tell the story of the Christian faith. Each panel is to be read in the boustrophedon manner – reading in an S-shape, starting from the lowest left-hand corner, left-to-right, then right-to-left, alternating successively as you reach each level above the other, working your way from bottom to top, to the uppermost right-hand panel.
Generous giving in the pattern of God’s own generous giving toward us and in God’s desire for us are in like manner, the boustrophedon manner. The triune God who did not withhold even His own Son, comes to us, demonstrates to us such lavish love, and, through the Holy Spirit works in us to extend generous giving to this person and that person, to this community and that. In the giving, we can discern the upward trajectory, as our giving is as an offering to God, acts of worship. Every act of giving, if we see and regard it as God-moments, as God-directed, as God-delighted…they direct us to the One who has given what we have in small and big measure.
Like the Sainte-Chapelle stained-glass windows, every panel lends to the richer story of the faith, where we can comprehend the wideness and breadth of the beauty of God, of God’s gift-giving, of God’s gifts, and of every person whom God brings into our lives.
All this is to say that the contrary realities—what Q/A 110 calls “theft and robbery. . .scheming and swindling—elide the beautiful generosity of God, dishonor God, and make us less than human, or, even un-human. We become as ravenous animals, out for ourselves, for our gain, for our consumption, for our satisfaction. This would be to remain in one stained-glass panel, and, in fact, shattering the precious glass itself. On many levels, “theft, robbery, scheming and swindling” destroy relationships or the potential for having one; exhibit a lack of beneficial creativity and edifying imagination; and at bottom, the acts and thoughts leading to or actualized in stealing commodify people, commodify God, and commodify ourselves.
Rather, the Spirit of God unleashes us to be generous: generous with our lives, generous with what we have, generous with what we don’t yet have (which then become prompters for prayerful hope to meet the need of our neighbor in a fuller way). Generous giving and being generous stewards of what God has given to us are our lifelong, worshipful acts towards the flourishing of our neighbor, to the glory of God.