"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.