|Posted on January 4, 2021 at 7:50 AM|
We are beginning a new year, and I pray it will hold improvement over last year. I also hope that it finds you well. It is a time for many to make new resolutions, and I hope that the reviews I have made over the past several weeks of some of the Ten Commandments have caused you to look at possible changes to your life for 2021.
Today’s topic is the seventh of the Ten Commandments, which reads “You shall not steal.” Ah, finally a commandment that is a little easier to address than the last few!
God has asked humans to be stewards of His creation. Everything on earth was created by God, and I only get to borrow them for my lifetime. Of course, I do have a right to have personal property, like my house, car, and clothing. But this does not do away with the original gift of the earth for the whole of mankind. (CCC 2403) I cannot take earthly items with me when I die. I will leave this earth with nothing, just as I came onto this earth with nothing.
This seventh commandment addresses unjustly taking and keeping things. We are prohibited from taking things that do not belong to us. Robbing another person, looting during a riot and damaging other people’s property are examples of sinning against this commandment. This commandment requires respect, justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruit of man’s labor.
But the commandment goes beyond this. We must not use any of our resources inappropriately or wastefully. We are obligated to keep all promises and contracts made, and those promises must be fair and just. And we are obliged to give our employees just and fair wages and reasonable working conditions. Our world resources are meant for everyone, and the unfair distribution of them (food, water, land, etc.) is also a sin against this commandment.
And finally, if we sin against this commandment, we are obligated to make restitution.
Some of you may be aware that the Catholic Church has a “preferential option for the poor.” What this means is that the Church has made it a duty to work for the needs of the poor – and if you look at history, much good has been done by the Church. Many hospitals and educational institutions have been established by religious orders all over the world to help those who are less fortunate. That’s not to say that the church has solely been focused on the poor – I am well aware that many church leaders have amassed riches for themselves or for the church, and many church leaders have behaved poorly towards others. But a main thrust of Church efforts continues to be improving conditions for all people, despite the failings of many of her members.
So how have I done on this commandment? I admit that years ago I did have a problem with stealing things that did not belong to me. It started innocently when I was a child – I took cookies my mother told me not to take! That was minor, of course. But later as an adult, during the time I was a single mother and money was tight, a few things from work found themselves at my home. I “justified” this by saying they would not miss the items and I needed them. Fortunately, I realized later that this was wrong, and I did return things that I could.
Looking back at this time in my life, I now have much empathy for the many people who live in poverty. Faced with very real needs but not enough resources, many folks can be sorely tempted to take things they need to survive. Sadly, an unjust distribution of our world’s resources has contributed to many sins against this commandment.
I have failed in this commandment in other ways, too. Over the years I have made promises I have not kept. I have wasted my money on unnecessary things. Sometimes it has been hard for me to share the resources I have with others, especially during the times when my own resources were limited. Like with the other commandments, the main solution for my sins against the seventh commandment has been to go to confession as well as make restitution when I could for my wrongs.
It’s hard for me to “clean out” and give away unneeded things, but I am working on this as a resolution for the new year - check my personal Facebook page over the next several weeks for items I am giving away! I also am donating time to help people who are in need. I know I am still not perfect here, but I am improving!
This week I invite you to ask yourself a few of these questions: Am I a good steward of God’s creation? Have I avoided stealing? Do I respect others and make promises and contracts that are fair and just, and do I keep them? Have I made restitution for wrongs I have committed? Do I help those who need assistance? Reviewing these questions may help you see if you are failing in keeping the seventh commandment.
May looking at this commandment bring you blessings this week.
Have a blessed Monday!
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