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제목 7th Commandment -"Thou shalt not steal"(2016-04-10)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-05-02




7th Commandment - "Thou shalt not steal"(2016-04-10) Pictures   


My dear Brethren,
The Ten Commandments are commandments of life, teaching us to worship God, The Living and Author of all life, teaching us to respect our parents through whom we have received life, teaching us to respect life itself and its transmission. Now with the 7th Commandment, we are bound to respect the external means of life, the property of our neighbour: “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15).


 First, we need to know that the Church teaches that there is a natural right of property: “The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof: the world, and all they that dwell therein” (Ps. 23:1 – 1 Cor. 10:26). All creation belongs to God, who has the Supreme Ownership over all: not only the earth belongs to Him, but we ourselves belong to Him! Because He made us and the whole world, and the work belongs to the worker. God’s dominion over the whole creation does not exclude human property, but rather is the foundation of it: indeed God is the First Cause of all goods, but far from excluding secondary causes, He gives to some beings the power to be secondary causes, especially to spiritual beings such as Angels and men. So, since the work belongs to the worker, the fruits of human work belong first to God but also secondary to the man who worked at it: man is under God secondary yet truly cause of that goods, therefore has a right of property over it.


 Pope Leo XIII writes:  “If one man hires out to another his strength or skill, he does so for the purpose of receiving in return [a just salary, by which he may provide] what is necessary to satisfy his needs; he therefore expressly intends to acquire a right full and real, not only to the remuneration, but also to the disposal of such remuneration, just as he pleases. Thus, if he lives sparingly, saves money, and, for greater security, invests his savings in land, the land, in such case, is only his wages under another form; and, consequently, a working man's little estate thus purchased should be as completely at his full disposal as are the wages he receives for his labour. But it is precisely in such power of disposal that ownership obtains, whether the property consist of land or chattels. Socialists [communists], therefore, by endeavouring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life.” (Rerum Novarum, n°5)


 There is another reason for the right of property: everyone takes better care of what belongs to him. Common property is well cared only in monasteries and convents, where highly virtuous monks take proper care of the common good; but such proper care is rare among others. The very failures of communistic economies have proven this point beyond doubt. God is the Supreme Administrator of creation, but under Him intelligent creatures such as man can have a ministerial administration of a part of creation: by the right of property, a part of creation is entrusted to man’s ministerial care. Private property provides to a family a certain security in the future. It also provides a certain freedom as to use that property.


 From the right of private property, there clearly follows the duty to respect the property of others: “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15). Theft is in itself a mortal sin; for little amounts there is not yet “grave matter” and thus it would be only a venial sin; but if one adds a little theft other little thefts, then the amounts must be added, and it can reach grave matter rather quickly. The grave matter can be evaluated as the amount of a worker’s daily salary. The Scriptures says: “. The wages of him that hath been hired by thee shall not abide with thee until the morning” (Lev. 19:13). “Thou shalt not refuse the hire of the needy, and the poor, whether he be thy brother, or a stranger that dwelleth with thee in the land, and is within thy gates: But thou shalt pay him the price of his labour the same day, before the going down of the sun, because he is poor, and with it maintaineth his life: lest he cry against thee to the Lord, and it be reputed to thee for a sin” (Deut. 24:14-15).

 There are many ways to commit a theft, such as frauds, usury or worse with violence such as burglary, or extortion by which one takes advantage of one’s position of strength to charge exorbitant prices. Similar to extortion would be the paying of insufficient wages: this also is the abuse of the position of strength of an employer over the need of poor employees, who need to work in order to survive: when a boss pays as little as he can, he abuses of his position of strength, and it is a sin: such sins on the part of employers are mortal sins, because they are multiplied by the number of employees. But one also sins against the 7th Commandment when one refuses to return a stolen good, even if one has acquired it unknowingly.

 A common way to sin against the 7th Commandment is by cheating in the workplace: for instance if one consistently arrives late at the workplace and does not work the full length of time agreed in his work-contract, or when one uses work-time to conduct personal business. In such matters, a one-time short phone call for an urgent personal matter for instance would be no sin at all, but if such would be repeated many times, or would be a long international call, etc., then one would need permission from one’s supervisor or one’s boss. Without such permission, there would be need to pay back, not only the price of the phone call, but also for the time spent on private affairs.


 Cheating in studies, and especially in exams for students is also a kind of theft: they steal marks which they do not deserve. If they cheat during final exams, it is also a kind of theft: who wants to entrust his health to a doctor who stole his diploma and does not really know his medicine? Not long ago, there was a scandal in India where pilot licences were given to students who had not the required number of flying hours: in other words the responsibility of a plane with all its passengers was thereby given to persons who were incompetent! This is indeed a sin against justice.


 Stealing is a very bad calculation. Indeed “what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26). One loses eternity for the sake of a passing good: very bad calculation indeed! If one would always remember death, and the Judgement and eternal life as a reward for the just man and hell for the unjust, one would never commit such injustices. Judas the traitor “was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein” (Jn. 12:6). His suicide and damnation are great warning for thieves: they are in danger of hell fire! Our Lord himself said of Judas: “it were better for him, if that man had not been born” (Mt. 26:24).


 If one had stolen in the past, he must give back what he stole. If he does not remember from whom he stole it, he must give the amount to the poor. If he does not remember how much he stole, he should sit down at his desk, take a sheet of paper, and work it out. It is better to give back more than less. St Paul says: “He that stole, let him now steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have something to give to him that suffereth need” (Eph. 4:28). And St Paul says again to the Thessalonians: “And that you use your endeavour to be quiet, and that you do your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded you: and that you walk honestly towards them that are without [=non-Christians]” (1 Thess. 4:11). And in the Acts of the Apostles he says: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring [hard-working as St Paul] you ought to support the weak, and to remember the word of the Lord Jesus, how he said: It is a more blessed thing to give, rather than to receive” (Acts 20:35).


 Indeed the 7th Commandment positively obliges to practice the virtue of justice, which requires us to give to others what we owe them. We benefit from the work of others: we are indebted to the farmers for the food we eat, to the clothe-makers for what we wear, to the constructors for our houses or apartments, to the shoemaker for our sandals, etc. Therefore we also owe them our own contribution: we must in our turn contribute to the common good, we must work! Moreover a father of family has the duty to work for an additional reason: his duty to provide for his family, and not only to provide for the present but also for the future. In order to be able to provide for the future of his family, he may acquire some assets, land, house, etc.


 But ownership imports some responsibilities. And the more one owns, the more responsibilities he has. Indeed we are not the only ones on earth; we must not think only of ourselves, but also of our neighbour. And, inequalities are natural: some are stronger, some weaker; some are more industrious than others; some are healthier than others, etc. all such natural differences lead to natural inequalities. Yet God’s providence has willed such inequalities so that those who have more may give to those who have less: the stronger should protect the weaker; the healthier should care for the sick; those who are more industrious must make others benefit of their gifts, by providing jobs for others, etc. Our Lord Jesus Christ says: “unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more” (Lk. 12:48).


 And St Paul says: “Charge the rich of this world not to be highminded, nor to trust in the uncertainty of riches, but in the living God, (who giveth us abundantly all things to enjoy,) to do good, to be rich in good works, to give easily, to communicate to others, to lay up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the true life” (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

Indeed the opposite of theft is almsgiving. By almsgiving we “lay up to ourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal” (Mt. 6:20). The Fathers of the Church used to say that almsgiving is lending to God, who repays with infinite interest, with eternal life. “Sell what you possess and give alms. Make to yourselves bags which grow not old, a treasure in heaven which faileth not: where no thief approacheth, nor moth corrupteth” (Lk. 12:33). St John in his epistle warns us: “He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17).


Let us pray to all the Saints, especially to our Lady and St Joseph, who earned his honest living through hard-work, that they may help us to be always faithful to justice, and never steal, but rather that we do our duty especially that of almsgiving.  Amen.  


Fr. Laisney(sspxasia)