Friday, November 02, 2012

"You shall not steal" and "You shall not covet"

Here are some notes from Father Andrew's Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Bible Study for Wednesday, October 31.

Since September our study has focused on the “Ten Commandments” as:

Law as guidance vs  Law as legal code.......

To give a good illustration:

Using a compass and a sense of direction to navigate our own path vs. using a GPS and following the instructions precisely as they are given.

During the class on Wednesday, October 31st the following bible portions were read and compared to begin our study.

Exodus 20:15
"You shall not steal."

Deuteronomy 5:19
"Neither shall you steal."

Deuteronomy 27:17
"Cursed be anyone who moves a neighbor’s boundary marker.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”

Exodus 20:17
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet
your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or
anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Deuteronomy 5:21
21 Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you
desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or
ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Sometimes we romanticize theft. Think of films and stories where we romanticize "crooks." How might we justify theft? When might it seem permissible?

How about "coveting?" Think about how our desire for things drives much of our consumer culture.

But what does wanting something we don't have do to us?

First,  a movie clip. This one is from "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers."

and this one from "The Lord of the Ring: The Return of the King."

If you've read the story or seen the films, remember what happened to Gollum.  
Gollum was a Hobbitt who had possesion of the One Ring and later named Gollum after his habit of making "a horrible swallowing noise in his throat" His life was extended to a virtual immortality because of his possession of the Ring, which he frequently referred to as "my precious" and "my birthday present". At the same time, the Ring--and his pursuit of it--destroyed Gollum spiritually and psychologically. In the book "The Hobbit,"Bilbo Baggins took the Ring from Gollum during the Riddle Game. Gollum pursued it for the rest of his life. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gollum accompanies Frodo and Sam, alternately protecting the ring and seeking to steal it as Frodo quests to destroy the ring forever. During his centuries under the Ring's influence, Gollum came to love and hate the Ring, just as he loved and hated himself. Throughout the story, Gollum was torn between his lust for the Ring and his desire to be free of it.

What is the connection between "theft" and "covet" in these scenes?
What does wanting a thing, making it the most important thing?
What happens to one spiritually when a thing that is not yours becomes the primary focus of your being?

Let's look at "Theft" and "Coveting" in the Commandments:

What does “theft” mean?

Theft means to take property that belongs to another or to the public. It encompasses
fraud, usury, extortion, and dishonest trading.

The Hebrew word used for “steal” is the one used of the kidnapping of Joseph in
Genesis 40:15

Theft was not just a law it was a tort: to steal means that the their must compensate the owner for
what was stolen.
If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. If the stolen animal is found alive in his possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—he must pay back double. A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft.  Exodus 22:1– 3
Stealing includes the following: prompting another to steal, receiving stolen goods, creating confusion to overcharge or underpay, using false weights and measures, and deceiving others with artificial or imitation goods.
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy,
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
saying, "When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and sell the refuse of the wheat?"
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob,
"Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and every one mourn who dwells in it?" Amos 8.4-8

If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be
to him as a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him. Exodus 22.25

“Theft” or “kidnapping” is related to “coveting” in the last (two) commandments.

The connection between “theft” and “coveting”

Why does desire for someone else’s stuff (or someone else’s wife) end the

From John Wesley: (Wesley’s Notes on the Bible):
"Thou shalt not covet - The foregoing commands implicitly forbid all desire of doing that which will be an injury to our neighbour, this forbids all inordinate desire of having that which will be a gratification to ourselves. O that such a man's house were mine! such a man's wife mine! such a man's estate mine!
This is certainly the language of discontent at our own lot, and envy at our neighbour's, and these are the sins principally forbidden here. God give us all to see our face in the glass of this law, and to lay our hearts under the government of it!
From an article by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Wells, The Christian Century, March 15, 2000 p. 301, that explains the significance of the Ten commandments as a tool to provoke us to worship God, finding true freedom individually and as a community when we do.
“…to be holy, to belong to God and to mediate his being to the world, is to be free. It is not the esoteric longing of a few; it is what everyone wants. There is only one way to be free, and that is to be a people who belong to God. In the language of the Reformation, justification -- the liberation by God of his people so they may be free in his sight -- belongs with sanctification -- the way God makes his people holy. Liberation and law are the way God claims his people as his own. At this point God commands. How shall we be holy? How shall we belong to God? How can we keep our freedom? This is how. Worship God, resisting the alternatives, and be a people at peace with one another.

“What are the alternatives to worshiping God? There are four, according to the commandments. One is to worship a different God. This is given no elaboration, because it needs none: God has brought Israel out of slavery. What use would Israel have for any other god? A second is to make an idol. This is to worship something smaller than God, something God has made. It is to confuse the creation with the
creator, to serve that which cannot liberate -- in other words, to return to slavery. A third is to trivialize God by forgetting that his name is holy, by using his name to advance our own purposes rather than his. If we frequently call on him when we don’t want him, we must accept that he won’t be there to answer when we really do.
“The fourth is to make gods of ourselves. This is the underlying warning of the commandments concerning the sabbath and parents. Temptations to break the sabbath are understandable: we are needed, we are vital, we have made commitments and need this extra time to fulfill them, we don’t want to let people down, there is so much good that can be done. The temptation to break the sabbath is the temptation to do extra good. Why is extra good necessary? Because salvation is just out of reach and we are striving for it? Because we are surrounded by suffering and evil, and God can’t or won’t intervene, so we must? The sabbath is a great test of our faith in God. If we look to him, he will look after what he has given to us.
“Honoring one’s parents is about acknowledging contingency. The decisive choices in our lives -- that we should exist and should be children of God -- were made before we were born. Whatever our feelings about our parents, our practice toward them must be one of gratitude, reflecting the fact that without them there would be no us. Our respect for them is a practical demonstration of our thankfulness to God.
“The commands to respect life, marriage, property and truth underline that freedom means being a people before God. We cannot be holy on our own; we need others. Unless they respect these boundaries, no people can live in peace.”

Please join us next Wednesday, November 7th, as we discuss the Commandment "You shall not be a false witness." 

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