Sharing: Obedience to the Seventh Commandment

"Thou shalt not steal" (Ex 20:15).

Whenever I get to this commandment while doing an examination of conscience, it's an easy thing to simply check it off and move on to the Eighth Commandment.  "Nope, haven't robbed any banks this week, I'm good."

Well… it just ain't that easy.

The Gospel is challenging and God intended it to be.  Jesus often reminded us that we are called to be more than merely law-abiding, but to aspire to generous love for God and each other.  The Seventh Commandment is more than refraining from taking that candy bar from the convenience store.  We must avoid loving things more than God and more than people.

In the Catechism, we read what the Church teaches us about the Seventh Commandment: "The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one's neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods.  It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men's labor.  For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property.  Christian life strives to order this world's goods to God and to fraternal charity" (#2401).

 Of course we must not unlawfully take what does not belong to us.  The commandment includes physical property, but intellectual property like movies and music, others' thoughts and ideas, and even their reputation and good name.  Keeping this commandment also includes keeping our commitment to our employers.  In other words, goofing off at work could be a sinful act, especially if we are depriving our employers of a just profit to their business.

The Seventh Commandment challenges us to just use of our own goods and respect for others' goods.  It is not good enough to merely avoid sin, but we must be stewards of what God has given us.  Being a good steward means taking care of not only our own needs, but of the Church and those around us.

Do we contribute to the Church's mission in proportion to the gifts God has given us?  The Church doesn't mandate a 10% tithe, but that is a good guide.  When well-dressed and prosperous people drop a token dollar in the collection basket, they demonstrate a lack of appreciation for all our generous God has given us.  He has given us everything and asks for only a portion in return.  Is returning 10% to God through the Church and our favorite charities really that onerous?  It's not the reason we tithe, but I can testify that since we've begun being deliberate about giving 10% back to God, He has faithfully ensured that our finances have been trouble free.  We always seem to have the money we need at the end of the month, despite the fact the budget shows our bank account should be empty.

Are we taking care of the poor?  The Seventh Commandment is a call to action to be Jesus' hands and feet among those who are struggling in the world.  Americans in general are very generous when it comes to the feeding, clothing, and housing the poor, so it's easy to think "someone else will take care of it."  We need not contribute to a charity with money to fulfill our Christian duty; we can also tithe our time.  Volunteering at the parish, a local charity that serves the poor, or even taking the opportunity feed or clothe someone who asks us for help can be a way to love Jesus through His beloved poor.

The Gospel is not easy.  If it was, we would not need the grace of the Sacraments and the help of the Saints to meet its demands.  Our Lord and Savior loves us so very much, He made sure we had grace to keep His Commandments — even to shedding His own blood for us.

It's a love worth sharing.

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  • Guest

    Mickey,

    I notice that you have two children, for whatever reason (please, nobody take offense that I have just offended anybody whose kids were lost to miscarriage or never conceived due to infertility. I'm stating a fact for argument's sake). I have more than 5 times that number.

    Let's assume our families each make $100,000 annually for argument's sake. In your family there is a per capita income of $25,000/person. After your 10 % tithe it's down to $22,500/person. In my family the same $100,000 equals $9999/person before tithe and $8181/person. These are the figures before the various government entities get a hold of our incomes, through the multitude of taxes, and whack another 40-50% off our total income.

    You can crunch the numbers yourself and see that your family has well over twice the dollar amount per capita vis-a-vis my family. Do you think that raising 11 children is less expensive than raising two? (as a rule).

    I believe that the Church does not measure generosity in any way other than monetary. "Hand over your 10% plus your dill and mint offerings or you won't receive absolution from the priest". Sure they give lip service to stewardship of Time, Talent, and Treasure, but "treasure" is what they want for their "pork" projects. (currently it is funding victims of their abuse and criminal mismanagement along with aiding and abetting law breakers in the persons of illegal immigrants "welcome the stranger". How much money gets put into pre cana and NFP programs? Or even resources to help married couples raise families during this era of attack on the family? Less than 3 % of my diocese budget goes toward that. While multicultural outreach and like nonsense rake it in.)

    It is my opinion that the government has usurped many of the roles formerly belonging to the Church. For instance, the Church biblically has the duty of helping "true widows". Medicaid and social security do that now to a large measure. Single mothers, a "protected class" biblically, are bountifully supported by the State (read welfare state). Our wallets are being "double dipped" by enforced tithing (high taxes) and "stewardship". (why should I give to government schools and my diocese for parochial schools to which I wouldn't send my dog? I homeschool….my dip…but where's my rebate from either entity? Is homeschooling free?)

    Some will nickle and dime stewardship. "well you know you can count homeschooling costs, and religious articles and gas money to drive to Faith Formation, and ………) "Can count"? I don't count. Only God counts. I give until it hurts. Ask anybody who has been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for over 20 years continually about giving from her poverty, hope she isn't "hormonal" at the moment, and the look on her face will be your answer. She knows about generosity from giving of her very body and blood. Where is the stewardship measure for giving a single soul to the Almighty for eternity?

    I understand your point. However, the 10% tithe is an amount determined by man's hardness of heart. God wants 100% of everything set apart for His use. Most of all he wants to reign over one's soul; and even the bishops and apologists for the "money grab" can't put a price tag on that.

     

  • Guest

    Mikey:

    Tithing is indeed a challenge. I only have 5 kids and it is tough to compete in this world where everyone else is able to spend a higher per capita amount on them. However, few Catholics (at least in my Parish) observe the Church's laws concerning reproduction and don't face the per capita spending problem. Virtually every week the bread and wine is brought forth by a different couple and their two token kids.

    Hence, I think the tithing point hits right on the mark.

    On the other hand, if a Catholic is unwilling to sacrifice for a large family, I doubt they have the will to sacrifice a tithe.

    I love this article for other reasons as it identifies some of the key items that we forget concerning the 7th commandment. Among the biggest problems I see is Internet abuse at the office and copying software and music.

    One item that was missed is that our most valuable resource is time and that is often what we steal most from others. If you waste someone's time you are in fact stealing from them.

    John C. Walker

    http://www.johncwalker.com

  • Guest

    John,

         Certainly the vast majority of Catholics contracept, which is very sad.  But as Elkabrikir points out, you can't assume that every family with just two kids is contracepting.  There are plenty of people, like me, who are fertility challenged and would love to be generous in childbearing but don't have that option, so have to channel our generosity in other areas (like adoption). 

  • Guest

    I have heard it said that generosity is measured not by what you give, but rather by what you hold back! I do try to think about that when giving of myself in any way (bodily, monetarily).

    Sometimes when I talk about this commandment with my kids I'll say, "I know you're not going to rob a bank, so that's not the standard to which you're held.  However, do you take care of your belongings?  Do you do your assigned chores because if others have to do them, you're stealing time.  I like that JOhn C pointed out that time is a gift not to be squandered or stolen from another.

    It is humbling to realize the many areas which need to be purified by Grace and the Holy Spirit.  Reflecting on the Commandments, like Mickey did is a great start.  I hope I live a long life………… 

  • Guest

    Elkabrikir:

    May I humbly state that I do not believe the Church measures generosity in monetary means alone. May I also clarify that statement to say that some within the Church, by their seemingly unceasing petitions for cash, and their morally lacking homilies, do indeed portray a money hungry Church.

    The Church is multifaceted and its structure is simple yet complex. There is probably a tremendous amount of pressure, both self applied and from above, to "thrive" as a parish. Money is necessary for the survival of the Church; alot of it.

    The riches that you describe giving are beautiful and professed by a great many saints and theologians. We are reminded of the woman who gave the most when she gave all that she had not her "surplus".

    You are an inspiration to all who read your comments and know of your sacrifice for family. Surely God has blessed you considerably and I would ask for understanding in that all "men and women of God" are not blessed with tact and compassion. Although we may not see the work of the universal Church in our own backyard, she is working hard and we must trust in God that he places worthy stewards over our contributions, whether they be monetary, prayerful or time consuming. As you already know from Jesus' teaching, God sees us for who we are in the privacy of our hearts and this is where there will be an accounting of our life.

    In Christ,

    David T. Garrison

    Remember, the Sun is always shining!

  • Guest

    David,

    I agree with you.  The Church is holy and doesn't measure generosity in monetary ways.  However, I understand the reality of running an organization and money, lots of it in today's age is needed.  Therefore, I do give money. (It is a precept of the faith.)  But, I know that my surname will never be on any Family Life Center either!  I'm at peace with that and would be embarrassed anyway.  In fact, I consider it embarrassing when well intentioned folks point out the virtue in raising a large family.  The ability to be a Holy Parent is pure grace.  I do what I do as a way of thanking God for His generosity to me in the first place.  (Having a fertile marriage is a gift I don't take for granted; and, we've always stretched ourselves physically, spiritually, psychologically, and financially in order to return to God not only a tithe but mint and dill offerings as well.

    PS The sun was not shining during my "night owl" period of 12:30-3:30 AM.  Sometimes I wish I was part "vampire" so l could sleep during the day and recoup some shut eye!  (Joke) 

    David's comment:God sees us for who we are in the privacy of our hearts and this is where there will be an accounting of our life.  Amen 

  • Guest

    Elka{is this correct?},

    I did see the time of your original post and was going to make mention of it but was inclined not to for fear it would be taken the wrong way. I have read what you have posted in the past and it is always thought provoking and/or true to the faith.

    I know a little bit about fertile marriages as well{6 + 1 in March, God willing}.

    Please allow me to ask that you reflect further on my closing. Scientifically and spiritually it is a fact, because without either, the sun or the Son we are dead. Whether it be the darkness of the night or the darkness of our soul; He will never stop providing the warmth and comfort we need to exist.

    Remember, the Sun is always shining!

  • Guest

    I can accuse myself daily of breaking the 7th commandment…with regard to time.  Time does not belong to me.  It is a gift given to me by God to make good use of.  There is no such thing as "my time" although I keep stretching and reaching for it.  But time belongs to God, and I often waste it, steal it for myself, or just let it slip away.

    This one I definitely break daily.

  • Guest

    When we confess this sin of stealing in all these ways, how can we ever stop sinning against the seventh commandment? If we can stop sinning  in this way then do we become holy, saintly if you will? I know this is true, but I fear then that I shall never{in this lifetime} be holy…

    Remember, the Sun is always shining!

  • Guest

    Hate to break it to you, David, but none of us will ever be saints here on earth.  That's the power of Heaven.  But this is not bad news.  It is just news that urges us forward more fervently toward Heaven.

    To imagine that the saints in Heaven never sinned on earth is ludicrous (save Jesus and Mary).  To imagine you could ever get to the point on this earth where you will never sin again is laudable but impossible.  We strive to perfection, just as our Heavenly Father is perfect, but we can't get there until we are There.

    We can resolve 100% never to sin again.

    We can struggle 100% never to sin again.

    But the struggle will never end on this earth.  That's what Heaven and its eternal Rest is all about. 

    So how do we become holy and saintly?  By beginning again and again in the struggle.  By picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off (preferably with a good and frequent confession), and starting on the journey again.

    And again.

    And again.

    And again.

    THIS is heroic. 

    THIS is what makes saints.

    And we don't do it ourselves.  It's only through the grace of God (his giving and our receiving) that it is possible.  Most times, we want to try to do it ourselves – and that's when we'll fail.

  • Guest

    Loretta: excellent, thank you. I often forget that lesson of the cross.

    Remember, the Sun is always shining!

  • Guest

    There’s a lot of depth in the Mickey’s words.

    To be rid of sin would be great, yet the imperfections in our nature, (thanks Adam and Eve) seem to drive us to selfish acts v. “God-ish” acts. As we strive to holiness one may objectively see sins as “smaller” but, subjectively, it becomes more clear just how sinful I remain…and how far I still have to go to reach the ultimate goal.

    Thank God for the Sacraments, Thank You Jesus for Your Divine Mercy, and may the Holy Spirit continue to work in us all.

    In Christ,
    Michael

    “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”

    “The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” – GK Chesterton

  • Guest

    David,

    yes the time was correct.  My reflux is really bad at the end of pregnancy and I'm up quite for quite a few hours at night.  Maybe I shouldn't get online then, because my true (sinful) self seems less bridled by self control!

    Also, maybe this subject of 10% tithing strikes a nerve because I know how selfish I am. 

    I know the SON is always shining.  I was not saying I was depressed, I literally meant the sun wasn't shining!  In other words, I was being silly… Congrats on the new baby.  I hope your wife is doing well.

    lpioch:  "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak"  says St Paul…and don't we know it!

  • Guest

    Elka,

    The point of your sinfulness revealed at that un-Godly{pun intended} hour was what I was going to allude to in my first reply to you. Having read other posts by you, I was going to call it "being cranky" :}

    I don't believe I alluded to depression, if I did it was not meant. I know you were being silly and as I have the mesage of, " remember the Son is always shining" at the end of my voice mail recording, I am often left a response such as, "well it ain't shining here" and "not at three o'clock in the morning". I literally mean the sun is shining, if it wasn't we would be dead. Even at three o'clock in the morning when it appears dark in our part of the world, the sun is shining. We cannot see it but we feel its life sustaining effects.

    As you have pointed out, Jesus acts the same way or one should say the sun acts as its Creator does; providing comfort even when you don't recognize it. Now I remember where you might have understood depression, when I mentioned the darkness of the soul. I wrote that only because I thought it was appropriate to the Son is always shining, not that you were experiencing it [darkness], but that we all encounter it, even saints like Mother Theresa. I still contend that you were cranky. :o}

    My wife is well, thank you.

    Remember, the Sun is always shining!

  • Guest

    I didn't feel offended by anything you wrote at any time.  It's just difficult to convey full meaning in this medium.  Therefore, sometimes I ask for clarification or give a further explanation of my own thought processes.

    Thanks….and you are right…the sun is always shining SOMEWHERE! 

  • Guest

    Thank you for that consideration and your posts – I agree this medum is valuable, but can be less than accurate in portraying one's mind and heart.

    Remember, the Sun is always shining!

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