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Catechism Class, H/C LD42


Catechism Class: Greed and Injustice

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 42

Singing: Psalm 26:1-7 (Tune St Thomas) from the Scottish Metrical Psalms  

In LD42, Q110, the Catechist deals with the eight commandment:- “Thou shalt not steal.”  And specifically, with what is FORBIDDEN by God.  But what do we mean by ‘stealing?’  There is the obvious answer of course; robbing a house, shoplifting, mugging, armed robbery, etc, – all of those activities are easily identified as theft or robbery, what the catechist refers to as ‘outright theft.’ The Law of God takes theft seriously. Exodus 22:1  But the catechist doesn’t stop with armed robbery.  He speaks about ‘other wicked schemes and devices.’   We might call them ‘injustices.’  He gives some examples of what they might be:-

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  • False weights and measuresDeuteronomy 25:13-16,  When Moses was giving the law, a tradesman or merchant would have carried a bag with his weights, to measure their goods as they sold them.  But we must have just one set of weights for everyone, not one for our friends and another for our enemies.  A weight for one is a weight for all.  Proverbs 11:1  
  • Deceptive merchandisingProverbs 12:22   That could include false advertising, selling something to a stranger, and falsely describing it.  That is so easy these days, with the ready availability of eBay and Gumtree.  
  • Counterfeit money. To go into a shop and pass off counterfeit money as being real, and so obtain goods that we do not pay for is certainly theft.  Of coursed its often more insidious than that.  What about Ponzi schemes?   It’s all based on fraud.
  • UsuryPsalm 15:5  I’ve often wondered about texts like this.   Is there such a thing as ‘ethical lending?’ After all, if banks and building societies didn’t offer loans how would we buy houses or cars? But what about the ‘pay-day loan companies?’  Someone recently called them, ‘legalised loan sharks.’   As for individuals – if I want to lend someone some money, I am to do so willingly, to help, not to profit, and with no interest accruing.  After all, the Lord has been kind to us.    
  • Fraud.  the catechist talks about defrauding our neighbour by force or show of right. I think this may mean some form of twisted legal claim to ownership of something, asserting that it’s yours by right, even if you don’t own it.

All of these wicked activities are frequently engaged in without conscience by many people, including people who profess to be Christians.  1 Corinthians 5:9 These all stem from one source – GREED, wanting more for ME, wanting something that’s not mine, something I don’t own, and wanting it without any right to have it, without earning it.  1 Timothy 6:10.  

There is one more thing that is forbidden by God, and which is rooted in greed and disobedience, and that is wasting the good gifts that He has given us.  Remember that when God created this earth he put Adam and Eve in a garden which had enough food, shelter and fulfilment for them to live peaceful, God honouring lives, in fellowship with their creator.  But sin entered into the world and everything was ruined, and God’s goodness has been wasted and squandered.  To waste precious resources is a sin.  May we just have enough to feed us and clothe us and be content with what the Lord has given us.  Proverbs 30:8-9   

So that’s what is FORBIDDEN in the eighth commandment.  Which then leaves us with the question:- “What then should be our attitude to others?”  The catechist addresses this in Q111.  What does God require of you in this commandment?  A: I must promote my neighbour’s good wherever I can and may, deal with him as I would like others to deal with me, and work faithfully so that I may be able to give to those in need.  The Christian life is the direct opposite of worldly ambition and self promotion.  Instead, we must devote our lives to helping others, whatever the cost to ourselves.  This is following the principles given by Jesus himself:

  • The ‘golden rule’ of Matthew 7:12,  
  • The extra beatitude of Acts 20.  In Acts 20 Paul is demonstrating that Christians must give of their own substance to bless and help others in need.  To give charitably.  Acts 20:35  


  • When we win a bet at the bookies, we get money we have not earned.  Is this stealing?  Should a Christian play the lottery?  Give reasons for your answer.
  • The lottery gives money to charity. Is it not a worthy cause?  Is the lottery motivated by greed?  How?
  • Is speculating on the stock market theft? 
  • Read Ephesians 4:28.  A man had a business installing bathrooms.  He would buy in cheap baths, then tell his clients that they were a much better brand, and greatly overcharge them.  He is converted and becomes a  Christian.  Can he continue his sharp business practices?  Why not?
  • Read Exodus 21:16 and 1 Timothy 1:10.  Modern slavery and human trafficking is a great scourge.  People from poor countries are fooled into thinking that they can get a job and a home in a rich country.  They pay their life savings, or their parents sell their possessions to get a passage to the UK etc, and when they arrive they are put to work in terrible conditions, living roughly, with pay even lower than minimum wage.  Is slavery theft?  
  • Read 2 Thess 3:10.  Paul says that if we do not work we should not eat!  Nowadays we have social security, and people who do not work can claim allowances from the state.  But where does the state get the resources to fund such generosity?  From those who DO work – in taxes.  The unemployed is getting money which he has not earned.  Is this theft?  Why?  Read Ephesians 4:28 and 1 Thess 4:11-12 before you answer.  Is there a difference between a man who can’t work, and a man who can work, but doesn’t want to?

© BobMcEvoy November 2020

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