Discerning God's Will - Taking Care of Our Neighbor

In considering God’s will for our lives, this time around we will consider the Seventh Commandment: “You shall not steal.” In typical fashion Luther will explain the commandment in terms of what we should avoid doing, and then he will describe the good that we should be doing.

So, Luther’s explanation runs, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or property, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his property and means of making a living.”

Keep in mind there are plenty of ways that we can get our neighbor’s money or property without necessarily breaking any civil laws. We need to ask more than “Is this legal?” God’s law is perfect, our civil laws not so much.

Whoever considers that such things as not putting in an honest day’s work can be a form of stealing? Or conversely, that not paying a fair wage is another form of theft?

We could have a lengthy discussion on the subtle ways we can steal from each other, but once we consider the positive aspect of this commandment, those subtle ways will be seen for what they are. The positive thrust of the commandment is the wellbeing of my neighbor – Love your neighbor as yourself. My neighbor’s wellbeing involves his physical needs. He needs property and the means of making a living. And it is God’s will that we should help our neighbor, not only to protect these things, but also to improve them!

Think of the neglect of God’s will in this regard when we seek God’s will in our vain imaginations. There we might entertain the notion that God’s will for our lives involves some special, and privileged calling that insulates us helping our neighbor in his practical needs. Luther thought of this very thing when some in his day regarded cloistered monastic life as a “higher calling”. The vows of poverty and celibacy are not necessarily fulfilling any of the Ten Commandments.

Since You Asked…

Does the receiving of money offerings play a significant role in the worship service?

Yes, more than you might think! Cash is one of the strongest symbols in modern culture. When we offer our money on the altar it should represent our time and effort – our very selves. In early Christian worship gifts-in-kind were handled during the weekly assemblage. In our post-industrial societies, we now exchange in paper or metal symbols. The offering of our selves upon the altar is in response to God’s love proclaimed in the Good News and in anticipation of how God offers back that which is entrusted to him. During the moment of offering we also offer bread and wine upon the altar, and in return these gifts are offered back to us as the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.