We have to picture the modern-day Pharisee in Jerusalem dressed in flowing robes, walking down the dusty streets, coming up upon us, raising his head, looking down his nose at us and saying, “Have you stolen today?” Of course our reply would be, “Oh no, rabbi. I have not taken any man’s property. I have not taken anything that is not mine.” Then compare that to us today. We have not shoplifted, we have not even stolen hours at work where we have been paid for non-productive things. Contrast that with the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law to not only not steal your neighbor’s possessions, but rather to even help him obtain possessions, to help all those and not hinder.
The 8th Commandment takes on a whole other connotation when you consider it from a very positive viewpoint, not just “thou shalt not steal”, but thou shalt promote thy brother’s welfare financially. Thou shalt love your neighbor for God’s sake and seek his welfare and be a good steward of all your own possessions. This commandment, “thou shalt not steal”, at first look does not always seem to apply to us. We are prone to say, “I do not shoplift or prowl around under the cover of darkness taking that which does not belong to me. This will be an easy commandment to follow”, we would say. But on closer look we will see a more encompassing rule for our living. The basic principle of the 8th Commandment is contentment with the earthly possessions the Lord has given, and the exercising of proper stewardship. The commandment now suddenly seems very difficult. It seems every dollar you make this week has to be handled wisely. You cannot even waste a few bucks! It also means you must try to help all your Christian friends and God’s poor. We quote Reverend Herman Hoeksema from The Triple Knowledge. “But remember: whatever form the sin of stealing may assume, the thief in principle is always the one who refuses to manage his earthly possessions as a steward before the face of God. And even as a Christian steward acquires everything and manages everything with regard to his earthly possessions in the name, and before the face of God, and according to His precepts, so he also expects his reward from God alone.”
Contentment is a tremendous gift of God to His children. The godless struggle with envy all their days. You are blessed with the harmony of desires, needs and the supplying of earthly things such as your meals, work, your good health, etc.
At the same time the Holy Spirit soothes our hearts and truly blesses us with peace of mind on all the extra things we do not need so we do not sinfully covet. The world is typified in a man like Donald Trump. He wanted it all desperately, had it all, and still lusted for more, and now he loses it all. “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.” (Psalm 73: vs. 3, 18, 19)
Young people, count your blessings, they are abundant. Contentment therefore is not a destination to arrive at but a lifelong journey for the elect, always struggling with unhappiness that the old nature presents and what the new man places in proper perspective.
Be on guard against positive mental attitude teachings that include that you can be all that you can be if you work hard enough. This philosophy includes writing goals and placing in the prominent spot and saying them aloud every day, morning and night, visualizing what you want, laboring toward these goals with all your being, usually material goals. Goals are good and necessary, but an improper emphasis on self and not service is what is wrong. Humanism and New Age ideas which emphasize self are filling today’s church. You probably have met these people in the workplace. God is blessing them because they live according to the Golden Rule and are so good to fellow man. They are earnest in their feelings that God blesses them because they are living so properly and the Devil is the root of anything bad in their life, anything that detours their drive.
What a pity, the worldly chase the elusive gift of contentment, the latest fashions, the designer series everything, the face lifts, divorcing the wife of twenty years, mother of their children, for a younger wife, the health clubs full of spandex and lycra, all for what?!
The contentment of the child of God is truly heaven sent. The Great Shepherd leading us in rich and pleasant pastures, steering us away from the fast paced and selfish dangers of a self-indulgent society. Praise your God and thank the Bishop of your soul for caring for your every need, knowing what is best for you and your neighbor. Remember that our natures are such that we become tense with envy toward our fellow Christian’s successes, good fortune and fruit on their labors. We must recognize this sinful inclination and earnestly strive to charitably congratulate the Lord’s blessing upon their labor. May we promote each other’s welfare for truly we are our brother’s keeper.