7th Commandment – Property Rights

“You shall not steal.”

What is this or what does this mean?

“We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbors’ money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.”

-Martin Luther, The Small Catechism


Throughout the world and across cultural and political boundaries almost every single group of humans has some sort of rule about stealing. If this is so standard throughout the world, why would God need to go out of the way to remind us of this simple rule?

We can see the need for this rule early on in life. When a child wants the toy of another, without ever being taught, they wait until the other child is distracted and then take it. Sin is our propensity towards selfishness. In the 7th commandment, God sets a limit on us taking what we want especially when we haven’t earned it. “You shall not steal,” goes beyond its surface value and forbids taking advantage of others. Today we covered three examples of when these lines can be blurred and it becomes difficult to keep this commandment.

Trick-or-Treat

After a decent night of trick-or-treating, you come up to a house unlike any other house you’ve seen so far. Instead of someone waiting by the door to hand out candy in exchange for your clever joke, this house simply has a big bowl of candy sitting on a table in front of the front door. Excited to finish out your trick-or-treating night on a high note, you sprint up to the bowl. Upon further inspection you notice that the bowl is full of your there is a sign next to the bowl. It reads, “Please take only one piece. Everyone needs to get candy!”

You glance at your watch and see that trick-or-treating officially ends in two minutes. You look back and forth between your bag half full of mediocre candy and the bowl full of delicious morsels set before you.

  • What do you do?
  • What would you do differently if someone was there handing it out?
  • What if there was no sign and just a big bowl of candy?

Free Music

A few weeks ago your friend introduced you to a band you’d never heard of before. At first you weren’t sure if you really liked them because the music was so different from what you normally listen to. However, after a couple of weeks of hanging out with your friend with the music almost constantly playing in the background, you’ve begun to nod your head with the beat and mouth the words almost involuntarily. In fact, when the big chorus comes on at the end of the song you and your friend start belting it out together. Once the song is over and you finally stop laughing, your friend makes you an offer.

“This isn’t even my favorite album of theirs. I can actually just give you a copy of all of their songs since you like them.” Your friend opens their laptop and begins to create a playlist which is many pages long, full of music from this band. You’re thankful that your friend introduced you to this band and you’re excited to hear more of their songs. Just before your friend hits the “burn” button, they turn to you and say, “So, do you want me to give you all of this music?”

  • What do you do?
  • Would your opinion change if your friend bought you all of the band’s CDs?
  • Would your opinion change if someone was burning a CD of Christian music to share their faith with someone else?

Streaming Friends

Recently you were binge watching a TV show on Netflix with a friend who was spending the night at your house. Although this was the third time you had seen this series, your friend had never been able to watch it before. After staying up way too late watching the show, you and your friend start talking about the show as soon as you wake up for breakfast. After geeking out for half an hour your friend’s eye’s light up like they were struck by lighting. “I just had the greatest idea,” your friend exclaims, “Instead of having to spend all of our time together watching the show, you could just share your Netflix password with me, then I can watch it on my own!”

You are kind of surprised by this. Your friend has never talked about using any of your accounts before, and it never even occurred to you that someone wouldn’t have Netflix. You’re excited by the idea of having someone to talk about your favorite show with. Your friend presses you to make a decision, “Well, what do you think? Can I have your password?”

  • What do you do?
  • Would your opinion change if your friend was asking for your Parent’s account information?
  • What if your friend offered to help pay for the Netflix account?

After examining just a few gray areas where the seemingly black and white seventh commandment is involved, we must turn our attention to reading more of what God has to say on the subject throughout scripture. Proverbs 6:30-31 tells us that although we shouldn’t look down on people who steal out of necessity, they will still have to face the consequences of their actions. Leviticus 19:13-14 invites us to consider the consequences of stealing from the perspective of those who are stolen from.

In the 7th commandment, God calls us to turn away from the fear that we don’t have enough and into a mindset that is more about others than ourselves. In our earlier study of scripture, the seventh commandment is shown to be less about telling us what not to do, and more about helping us to look out for ways to help out others. Even when we feel like it’s not fair, we are called to trust God and remain content with what we have. Beyond that, we are called to actively seek to help out the people around us, especially those who are incapable of looking out for themselves. The ultimate example of this is Jesus’ death on the cross.

During tonight’s Small Group Activity, youth were invited to explore a fable where the characters looked out for each other. Using that story as a lens, confirmands were asked to examine times in their own lives when they were helped and when they helped others. When we look at the 7th commandment it’s easy to see what we shouldn’t be doing. The hard part is figuring out what to do next. The 7th commandment calls us to look out for others instead of ourselves.

For their Take Home Activity, students were called to describe a way that they could look out for someone in their family. The challenge for this week is to actually do the activity outlined in the section above, then reflect on how that makes you feel and how it affected your relationship with the other person in your family. Before next week students should ponder this question: How can you move beyond not cheating/stealing and begin to look out for others?

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