The Shorter Catechism, 22
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Q73: Which is the eighth commandment?
A: The eighth commandment is, "Thou shalt not steal".
See Exodus 20:15,
and Deut. 5:19 "Neither shalt thou steal".
Q74: What is required in the eighth commandment?
A: The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.
If it is forbidden to steal, then the opposite is commanded: You shall not rob someone of his wealth, but you shall procure that. The eighth commandment requires the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others. Several places of Scripture tell us these things. "Provide things honest in the sight of all men", Rom. 12:17. Provide honest things not only in the sight of believers, but also in the sight of the worldlings. Be honest always and ever. "Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds", Prov. 27:23. Here diligence in our work is commanded. Take diligently care of your flock and your herds, that is, take care of your goods. Or, as our answer has: procure and further the wealth and outward estate of yourself and of others. Regarding the helping of others, that is clear enough expressed in Lev. 25:35: "If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him, yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee." Also Paul commands us the same things. "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others", Philip. 2:4.
Q75: What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A: The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbourís wealth or outward estate.
What is forbidden here? It says "thou shalt not steal". Stealing is an extreme form of putting another to a disadvantage. Though the commandment only forbids stealing, it yet includes also all the more subtile forms of stealing. Anything that hinders, or may hinder our own or our neighbourís wealth or outward estate, is forbidden. Not only stealing, but also unjust selling, extortion, deceit, and all other public or secret means whereby humanity is wont to favour itself at the expense of others. So, we are forbidden to do such things as may hinder, or will hinder, our own or our neighbourís wealth and outward estate. Scripture is very clear in this. If one does not provide for himself, or for his house, he is an unbeliever, says Paul in 1 Tim. 5:8: "If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." Also acts whereby poverty may be caused, are forbidden. An example of such a forbidden act is following after lazy persons. "He that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough", Prov. 28:19. Plain stealing is forbidden, of course. Thieves shall not inherit the Kingdom of heaven. Plain stealing is forbidden, but also the heaping up of riches through deceit. "The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death", Prov. 21:6. Such deceivers, that try to enrich themselves, are seeking for death, said Solomon. It is forbidden to oppress the poor, and to use violence in taking away otherís goods. "Because he hath oppressed and hath forsaken the poor; because he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not. Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly", Job 20:19,20.
Some remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof. They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widowís ox for a pledge. They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together. Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work; rising betimes for a prey: the wilderness yieldeth food for them and for their children. They reap every one his corn in the field: and they gather the vintage of the wicked. They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no covering in the cold. They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock for want of a shelter. They pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the poor. They cause him to go naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaf from the hungry; Which make oil within their walls, and tread their winepresses, and suffer thirst. Men groan from out of the city, and the soul of the wounded crieth out: yet God layeth not folly to them. If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb? If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my motherís womb;) If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate: Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone. - Job 31:2-22.