This study is based upon the New City Catechism.

Text

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Romans 13:9)

Exposition

The second part of the Decalogue reflects on loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is the unifying principle of the final six commandments. Christ taught this (Matthew 22:37-40). Paul did too: “The commandments… are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9). By “summed up,” Paul means they are brought together, like airborne streams are first united at the fountain head. The summing-up (v.9) is sandwiched between two emphatic statements of the relationship between love and law. In verse 8, “The one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” In verse 10, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Paul does not mean that love has replaced the law, as if the New Covenant renders the law irrelevant. Rather, Paul is following Christ’s example and explaining what the foundation stone of the law has always been: love.

We will divide our reflections between the 6th-8th and 9th-10th commandments. These are all negative commands[1] which, together with the fifth commandment, paint a picture of what loving our neighbor looks like. There will be action in this love (fifth commandment), but mostly it is about inaction (6th-10th). Loving your neighbor is mostly about minding your own business. So, meddlers beware: God’s Law calls you to a life of respecting property and person. Gossips, busybodies, nosy neighbors, and eavesdroppers all disobey God’s law on a fundamental level. Those who are given to such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9).

First, the sixth commandment requires that we do not hurt or hate our neighbor. The prohibition is explicitly against murder: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). John explains that there is more than one kind of murder: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). The Law of God isn’t merely skin deep; it convicts us down to the mind and will. Jesus pointed this out, too: “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22). The Law curbs how our behavior affects others, but it also demands personal righteousness. It’s not enough just to “live and let live.” The problem with hate is that, though it does not murder, it makes one a murderer. With our hands, we must refrain from harming; with our hearts, we must refrain from hating.

Second, the seventh commandment requires that we live purely and faithfully. Like the sixth, this commandment prohibits more than what is explicitly stated: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). Jesus said, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Many of us can feign morality through self-restraint – that is to say, you can convince others you are righteous by shutting lust inside your head. But if that secret sin is not repented of swiftly, it will begin to eat you from the inside. While lust does not fornicate, it does make you an adulterer. No one would consider a cup clean which is wiped on the outside and moldy on the inside. Neither will God consider a man righteous who is a virgin yet performs wicked acts in his mind.

Third, the eighth commandment requires that we do not take without permission that which belongs to someone else. The mandate is straightforward: “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). This prohibition presumes the existence of private property. In God’s world, people have possessions, certain items to which they have absolute rights to. Theft occurs when you take something that the owner does not give you permission to take. In other words, it isn’t enough to assume they are fine with it. If you don’t own something, you don’t get to dictate where, how, and when it goes. The commandment is binding no matter how many people are in on it – which may seem obvious, except to socialists. Theft is theft, even on a national scale, even if sanctioned by the Senate. The wealth of others is not ours to redistribute.


Question: What does God require in the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments?
Answer: Sixth, that we do not hurt or hate our neighbor. Seventh, that we live purely and faithfully. Eighth, that we do not take without permission that which belongs to someone else.


[1] See Question X.

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