August 1, 2021

Live by the Spirit: The Eighth Commandment

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:14-46
Teaching Lesson: Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 110 & 111

This morning we have heard two parables from Jesus which appear to have very different perspectives on life in the Kingdom of God. The “Parable of the Talents” will appeal to the heart of the capitalist while the “Parable of the Sheep and the Goats” will appeal to the socialist. The Parable of the Talents declares a blessing and reward for industry, hard work, and the creation of wealth, while condemning laziness. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats declares blessing and reward for those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and show hospitality to the stranger, while condemning those who fail to help “one of the least of these”. However, these parables are not necessarily the opposite of each other. Both of them are speaking to God’s will for our lives in the Eighth Commandment where God says in Exodus 20:15, “You shall not steal”. That’s the commandment stated in the negative. In Ephesians 4:28 we hear it stated positively when the apostle writes, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”

What is the original “Land Acknowledgment” we hear in Psalm 24:1-2?
What does this tell us about the owner of everything in this world?
What does it mean that Jesus has “redeemed” us for the Kingdom of God?

To live by the Spirit is to understand there are social obligations that come with having “things”. We are our neighbor’s keeper. The two parables we read from Matthew 25 come within the context of the world as it is right now. Here’s what I mean: in both parables people are living in a time before the return of their Master and Lord. In both parables the focus becomes on what the one who returns says to those who had been left behind to work on his behalf. At the heart of both parables is the original grace that was given. By grace the servants were given talents and by grace the people were given food, shelter, clothes, and so forth. It’s what they did with those gifts of grace that indicates whether or not they even know what grace is. In the law given on Mount Sinai, the Lord said, “Do not steal.” Jesus now says, “Give yourself.”

How can we show grace to other people?
Do we earn grace or is it given to us?
What does Ephesians 4:28 say we ought to do instead of stealing?

In Matthew’s gospel account, the parables of the “Talents” and the “Sheep and the Goats” are immediately followed in Matthew 26 with a decision by the religious authorities to kill Jesus. It’s parables such as these two that drive the decision. As it still is today, the Kingdom’s vision and values are not tolerated by the people who have given themselves over to the systems of power within this world. Increasing hostility to the Gospel of Grace ought to be expected in our world which values raw power, virtue signaling, grievance culture, and intolerance of the other. So, what about us? How should we now live? We should not be led by culture and instead we must continue to seek the Kingdom of God. Anything less would be to rob from God and our neighbor the love required from us to them. In the book “Never on Your Own” it says there are roughly four kinds of people in the world:

What is yours is mine, and I’ll take it says the Robber.
What is mine is mine, and I’ll keep it says the Miser.
What’s mine is yours, so I’ll share it says the Humanist.
What’s mine is God’s, so I’ll share it says the Christian.”

The Conclusion:
Let’s think about the kind of people we are called to be in this world. We have been redeemed by Jesus to be his Kingdom citizens in this world. The opposite of “stealing” is sharing. We are called to share the life of the Kingdom with the world. “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” God is the ultimate Owner and body and soul, in life and in death, we belong to the One who has redeemed us from our sin and made us members of his New Creation: his Church and Kingdom.