Since we will gather for worship and to partake of Christ’s body and blood given and shed for the remission of our sins, it is indeed good and right that we examine ourselves in accord with 1 Cor. 11:28-29: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
We do so this week on the basis of God’s commandment: “Thou shalt not commit steal.” Exodus 20:14
Luther explains the meaning of this commandment in his Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God that we may not take our neighbor’s money or goods, nor get them by false ware or dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and business.”
Our catechism (the 1912 edition) points out that this commandment forbids “every kind of robbery, theft, usury, and fraud, as well as covetousness within our hearts.”
The Bible says:
“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” Ephesians 4:28
“That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.” 1 Thessalonians 4:6
“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:35-36
“And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.” Leviticus 25:35-37
“The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.” Psalm 37:21
“Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work….” Jeremiahs 22:13
And so, we ask ourselves: Have we stolen the property of others? Have we been dishonest in our dealings? Have we sought to win the property of others through gambling schemes and lotteries? Have we cheated our employees with unfair wages or failed to put in an honest day’s work for our employers? Have we taken advantage of the poor to enrich ourselves with usury? Have we borrowed money or goods and neglected to repay them? Have we given help to our neighbor when he is in need?
Again, we see our own sins and failings and stand condemned by this commandment of the Lord God. If we have been less than honest in our dealings, if we have taken the money or goods of others unjustly? if we have failed to give and help those in need, we stand guilty and condemned by this commandment. We deserve God’s wrath and punishment.
And should we take such sins lightly, God’s Word reminds us that they are damning. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Again, we remember that Christ Jesus kept this commandment perfectly in our stead. He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And, He went to the cross to suffer and die and bear the just punishment for your sins and my sins against His commandments. “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures … he was buried … he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
The Bible also tells us (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2): “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness … If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Therefore, we who stand condemned by God’s Law flee to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross that we might receive pardon, forgiveness and life eternal through faith alone in His name.
I ask you before God: Do you acknowledge that you have sinned? Do you confess and agree with God that you are guilty and deserving of his wrath and punishment? Do you believe God’s commandment is good and right but you are wrong, a sinner deserving of the torments of hell?
Do you trust that Christ Jesus has truly redeemed you from the curse of God’s law? That He fulfilled the law’s righteous demands and then took your sins upon Himself, along with the sins of the whole world, and suffered your just punishment when He died upon the cross? Do you believe that Christ paid for your sins when he died upon the cross and that he rose again in victory?
Do you also believe Jesus gives you to partake of His sacrifice for the sins of the world in the Sacrament – that He gives you His body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins?
As a fruit of your faith, do you truly desire and seek God’s help to amend your life and live it in accord with God’s Word, to be honest in all your dealings with others and not to seek or take what rightly belongs to another?
If you are truly sorry for your sins and look to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for pardon and forgiveness, I announce unto you the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]