The Christian, the believer in Jesus Christ, considering himself as a steward of God, certainly is no waster. Nor can he be a miser. There is principally really no difference between a waster, or a spendthrift, and a miser. Although they may appear rather radically different, from a spiritual, ethical point of view they are principally the same, the waster and the miser. They certainly agree in this respect; that they do not want to manage their earthly possessions before the face of God in His name, and according to- His will. An principally they also agree in this that they are motivated by the principle of covetousness. The miser probably may appear worse than the spendthrift and waster. The latter may sometime be mistaken for a loyal, liberal fellow. But do not make a mistake. The waster and spendthrift is simply a man who, rather than mange things in the name of God and in His employ, according to His precepts, uses his earthly possessions for his own carnal enjoyment and does not spend them properly in the service of God and for the well-being of the neighbor, but rather destroys them. The miser is the man who gloats over the mere possessions of earthly goods. Every day he rejoices to count the increase of his possessions. He loves to have his gold pass through hands, and hear the sound, and see the glitter of it. Day by day he likes to open his bank book, and see how his actual possessions have increased. He rejoices in the mere possession of earthly goods. He cannot, he will not, and he dare not manage these possessions with the question on his lips: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me do with them?” The poor may starve, the kingdom of God may suffer, the neighbor may have nothing; but the miser does not care to spend his possessions. He only wants to pile them up. God does not even give the poor fellow the gift to eat and drink of the possessions he has acquired. But remember: whatever form the sin of stealing many assume, the thief in principle is always the one who refuses to manage his earthly possessions as a steward before the face of God.
And even as the Christian steward acquires everything and manages everything with regard to his earthly possessions in the name, and before the face of God and according to His precepts, so he also accepts his reward from God alone. And this reward is three-fold.
In the first place there is the reward of your daily bread. Out of our possessions over which God has placed us as stewards we may take whatever is necessary for soul and body for us and our children. Such is the reward of faithful stewards for this present time. And this daily bread does not mean that the Lord is stingy and that you may not freely eat and live of the goods which He bestows upon you. But on the contrary if possible you may eat your daily bread liberally. Only always you must be content with whatever God gives unto you. If you do not possess sufficient to have abundant food, liberal clothing, and decent homes, you must practice contentment with mere daily bread in God’s employ, and be thankful. On the other hand, if you do not acquire your daily bread, which God gives you in His faithful service, because man snatches it away from you, and refuses to pay you a decent wage, God, your Employer, will require it from his hand. And to Him you will complain of the injustice of the wicked. You refrain from taking the law in your own hand and organizing for power to enforce your rights. That is neither your calling, nor the proper solution of the problem. You rather say to the wicked, that refuses to pay you a decent wage: “I am going to accuse you to my Employer. And my employer, as well as yours, is God. And when He comes, He shall require my wages from your hand.” Or, in the words of the apostle James 5:1-8: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you, Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. ‘Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”
In the second place, the steward that acquires and manages his earthly possessions in the name of, and before the face of God has the rich reward that he may have peace, true spiritual peace, the peace that passeth all understanding. That reward no man can possibly take from him. That rich spiritual blessing the thief can never have, even when he is principally a Christian. In the measure that one refuses to be a steward over his earthly possessions, and to seek the things that are above, in the measure that one must accuse himself of having things in his possession which God really did not bestow upon him, in that measure he is a thief, and in the same measure he can never have the peace that passeth all understanding. And, there his after all nothing so rich and precious as the peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, the Christian steward has the reward that he does and may expect all things from God. For even in this life he has the reward of the hope eternal. In that hope he rejoices. Also this the thief cannot possibly possess. As long as he is a thief, he can never rejoice in the hope eternal. But the Christian steward lives in that hope. For he does not set his heart on the things that are below, but on the things above, on the eternal inheritance. God has given him a promise. And that promise has already principally been realized. The promise is that he shall possess all things, and that every thief and robber shall be cast out. All the wicked shall be destroyed. And all that do not desire to be stewards which God has bestowed on them in their earthly possessions shall eternally be excluded from that rich inheritance. That promise God has already realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, who is the chief steward over the whole house of God and is sitting at the right hand of God, in glory forever. It is the promise of the new heavens and the new earth, where the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and which the believers in Christ Jesus shall possess forevermore, as stewards under Christ Jesus their Lord. In that inheritance we shall forever confess that all things are ours, and that we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
Q. 112. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. That I bear false witness against no man, nor falsify any man’s words; that I be no backbiter, nor slanderer; that I do not judge, nor join in condemning any man rashly, or unheard; but that I avoid all sorts of lies and deceit. as the proper works of the devil, unless I would bring down upon me the heavy wrath of God; likewise, that in judgment and all other dealings I love the truth, speak it uprightly and confess it; also that I defend and promote, as much as I am able, the honor and good character of my neighbor.
The law of perfect liberty requires of us, even as it is principally written in our hearts, that we love the neighbor in his name, and therefore speak the truth to him and about him in love for God’s sake.
All sin we must remember uses for its commitment and realization a good power bestowed upon us by God. Sin is the abuse of such power. It is the corruption of it. It is the perversion of what God has made good and bestowed upon us of His good gifts. This is true of all sin. It is true of the first table of the law. It is true, for instance, of idolatry and image worship: we imagine and invent and fashion an idol, serve and worship an idol with the very same power which God has bestowed upon us to know and to love and to worship Him; only that power is merely perverted and directed into sinful channels and to sinful objects. We blaspheme God and take His name in vain with the same heart and mind and mouth which God has given us to glorify Him. And thus it is also with every sin against the second table of the law. With the same power which God has given us, whereby we submit ourselves to all authority, we rebel against it and become disobedient. With the same power which God has bestowed upon man, whereby he may love him in his earthly existence and temporal life, to preserve it and seek his well-being, we kill him and destroy him from the face of the earth. Again, with the same bower which God has bestowed upon us to establish the marriage relation as. an indissoluble union between man and wife for the propagation of the human race, we commit adultery and fornication. And so, with the same power and means which God bestows upon us to have dominion over all earthly things and to be stewards of the most high, we steal and defraud and covet the things that are below, rather than the things that are above.
This is particularly true of the sin against the ninth commandment.
This is peculiarly so because the sin against the ninth commandment is that of lying. And principally, all sin is the lie. Negatively, the ninth commandment forbids the sin of lying particularly that of lying against and about the neighbor. And therefore positively, it demands that we speak the truth in love,—the truth about God, but more especially the truth to and about the neighbor.
It is therefore, especially in the sin of speaking and loving the lie that a perfectly good power which God bestowed upon man is perverted and corrupted. He made man a rational, moral being, that is, a being with intellect and will. And in doing so, He gave man a power which, if he subverted it, would make him a liar. He did not create us liars. He did not create us so that we loved the lie. But He nevertheless created us with a power which, if it was subverted by an act of our own will, we would become liars. He gave us the power of the mind, the intellect; and by means of that intellect we have the power to make unto ourselves a representation of reality concerning God, concerning the world, concerning ourselves, and concerning the neighbor. In other words by the power of the mind we can know the truth in the intellectual sense of the word. We can form a certain conception of God as He has revealed Himself in all the works of His hands, and particularly in the Scriptures. We can form an intellectual conception of Christ and the truth concerning Him. And we can form a conception of ourselves, as well as of the neighbor. Now, if I act and live and speak according to that knowledge of the mind, if I cling to it with my will with my heart and with my desires, so that I love it and speak it, I follow the truth. But with that same mind which God gave me I have the power to do something radically different. I have the power of imagination.