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Luther on Stealing, the Seventh Commandment

When Ron at the Faith and Values summit said that the entirety of his Christian thought came from his Catechism and being Lutheran studying the Word should of at that time posted Luther's commentary on 7th Commandment: Thou Shall Not Steal. In the famous words of Luther: What does this mean?

The Seventh Commandment.
Thou shalt not steal.
After your person and spouse temporal property comes next.
That also God wishes to have protected, and He has commanded
that no one shall subtract from, or curtail, his
neighbor’s possessions. For to steal is nothing else than to get
possession of another’s property wrongfully, which briefly
comprehends all kinds of advantage in all sorts of trade to the
disadvantage of our neighbor. Now, this is indeed quite a widespread
and common vice, but so little regarded and observed
that it exceeds all measure, so that if all who are thieves, and
yet do not wish to be called such, were to be hanged on gallows
the world would soon be devastated and there would be
a lack both of executioners and gallows. For, as we have just
said, to steal is to signify not only to empty our neighbor’s coffer and pockets, but to be grasping in the market, in all
stores, booths, wine- and beer-cellars, workshops, and, in short,
wherever there is trading or taking and giving of money for
merchandise or labor.
As, for instance, to explain this somewhat grossly for the
common people, that it may be seen how godly we are: When
a manservant or maid-servant does not serve faithfully in the
house, and does damage, or allows it to be done when it could
be prevented, or otherwise ruins and neglects the goods entrusted
to him, from indolence idleness, or malice, to the spite
and vexation of master and mistress, and in whatever way this
can be done purposely (for I do not speak of what happens
from oversight and against one’s will), you can in a year abscond
thirty, forty florins, which if another had taken secretly
or carried away, he would be hanged with the rope. But here
you [while conscious of such a great theft] may even bid defiance
and become insolent, and no one dare call you a thief.
The same I say also of mechanics, workmen, and day-laborers,
who all follow their wanton notions, and never know
enough ways to overcharge people, while they are lazy and
unfaithful in their work. All these are far worse than sneakthieves,
against whom we can guard with locks and bolts, or
who, if apprehended, are treated in such a manner that they
will not do the same again. But against these no one can guard,
no one dare even look awry at them or accuse them of theft,
so that one would ten times rather lose from his purse. For
here are my neighbors, good friends, my own servants, from
whom I expect good [every faithful and diligent service], who
defraud me first of all.

Furthermore, in the market and in common trade likewise,
this practice is in full swing and force to the greatest extent,
where one openly defrauds another with bad merchandise,
false measures, weights, coins, and by nimbleness and queer
finances or dexterous tricks takes advantage of him; likewise,
when one overcharges a person in a trade and wantonly drives
a hard bargain, skins and distresses him. And who can recount
or think of all these things? To sum up, this is the
commonest craft and the largest guild on earth, and if we
regard the world throughout all conditions of life, it is nothing
else than a vast, wide stall, full of great thieves.
Therefore they are also called swivel-chair robbers, landand
highway-robbers, not pick-locks and sneak-thieves who snatch away the ready cash, but who sit on the chair [at home]
and are styled great noblemen, and honorable, pious citizens,
and yet rob and steal under a good pretext.
Yes, here we might be silent about the trifling individual
thieves if we were to attack the great, powerful arch-thieves
with whom lords and princes keep company, who daily plunder
not only a city or two, but all Germany. Yea, where should
we place the head and supreme protector of all thieves, the
Holy Chair at Rome with all its retinue, which has grabbed
by theft the wealth of all the world, and holds it to this day?
This is, in short, the course of the world: whoever can steal
and rob openly goes free and secure, unmolested by any one,
and even demands that he be honored. Meanwhile the little
sneak-thieves, who have once trespassed, must bear the shame
and punishment to render the former godly and honorable.
But let them know that in the sight of God they are the greatest
thieves, and that He will punish them as they are worthy and

Now, since this commandment is so far-reaching [and comprehensive],
as just indicated, it is necessary to urge it well and
to explain it to the common people, not to let them go on in
their wantonness and security, but always to place before their
eyes the wrath of God, and inculcate the same. For we have
to preach this not to Christians, but chiefly to knaves and
scoundrels, to whom it would be more fitting for judges,
jailers, or Master Hannes [the executioner] to preach. Therefore
let every one know that it is his duty, at the risk of God’s
displeasure, not only to do no injury to his neighbor, nor to
deprive him of gain, nor to perpetrate any act of unfaithfulness
or malice in any bargain or trade, but faithfully to preserve
his property for him, to secure and promote his advantage,
especially when one accepts money, wages, and one’s livelihood
for such service.

He now who wantonly despises this may indeed pass along
and escape the hangman, but he shall not escape the wrath
and punishment of God; and when he has long practiced his
defiance and arrogance, he shall yet remain a tramp and beggar,
and, in addition, have all plagues and misfortune. Now
you are going your way [wherever your heart’s pleasure calls
you] while you ought to preserve the property of your master
and mistress, for which service you fill your crop and maw take your wages like a thief, have people treat you as a nobleman;
for there are many that are even insolent towards their
masters and mistresses, and are unwilling to do them a favor
or service by which to protect them from loss.
But reflect what you will gain when, having come into your
own property and being set up in your home (to which God
will help with all misfortunes), it [your perfidy] will bob up
again and come home to you, and you will find that where
you have cheated or done injury to the value of one mite, you
will have to pay thirty again.

Such shall be the lot also of mechanics and day-laborers of
whom we are now obliged to hear and suffer such intolerable
maliciousness, as though they were noblemen in another’s
possessions, and every one were obliged to give them what
they demand. Just let them continue practicing their exactions
as long as they can; but God will not forget His commandment,
and will reward them according as they have
served, and will hang them, not upon a green gallows, but
upon a dry one so that all their life they shall neither prosper
nor accumulate anything. And indeed, if there were a wellordered
government in the land, such wantonness might soon
be checked and prevented, as was the custom in ancient times
among the Romans, where such characters were promptly
seized by the pate in a way that others took warning.
No more shall all the rest prosper who change the open free
market into a carrion-pit of extortion and a den of robbery,
where the poor are daily overcharged, new burdens and high
prices are imposed, and every one uses the market according
to his caprice, and is even defiant and brags as though it were
his fair privilege and right to sell his goods for as high a price
as he please, and no one had a right to say a word against it.
We will indeed look on and let these people skin, pinch, and
hoard, but we will trust in God — who will, however, do
this of His own accord, — that, after you have been skinning
and scraping for a long time, He will pronounce such a blessing
on your gains that your grain in the garner, your beer in
the cellar, your cattle in the stalls shall perish; yea, where you
have cheated and overcharged any one to the amount of a
florin, your entire pile shall be consumed with rust, so that
you shall never enjoy it.

And indeed, we see and experience this being fulfilled daily
before our eyes, that no stolen or dishonestly acquired possession thrives. How many there are who rake and scrape day
and night, and yet grow not a farthing richer! And though
they gather much, they must suffer so many plagues and misfortunes
that they cannot relish it with cheerfulness nor transmit
it to their children. But as no one minds it, and we go on
as though it did not concern us, God must visit us in a different
way and teach us manners by imposing one taxation after
another, or billeting a troop of soldiers upon us, who in one
hour empty our coffers and purses, and do not quit as long as
we have a farthing left, and in addition, by way of thanks,
burn and devastate house and home, and outrage and kill wife
and children.

And, in short, if you steal much, depend upon it that again
as much will be stolen from you; and he who robs and acquires
with violence and wrong will submit to one who shall
deal after the same fashion with him. For God is master of
this art, that since every one robs and steals from the other,
He punishes one thief by means of another. Else where should
we find enough gallows and ropes?

Now, whoever is willing to be instructed let him know
that this is the commandment of God, and that it must not
be treated as a jest. For although you despise us, defraud, steal,
and rob, we will indeed manage to endure your haughtiness,
suffer, and, according to the Lord’s Prayer, forgive and show
pity; for we know that the godly shall nevertheless have
enough, and you injure yourself more than another.
But beware of this: When the poor man comes to you (of
whom there are so many now) who must buy with the penny
of his daily wages and live upon it, and you are harsh to him,
as though every one lived by your favor, and you skin and
scrape to the bone, and, besides, with pride and haughtiness
turn him off to whom you ought to give for nothing, he will
go away wretched and sorrowful, and since he can complain
to no one he will cry and call to heaven, — then beware (I say
again) as of the devil himself. For such groaning and calling
will be no jest, but will have a weight that will prove too
heavy for you and all the world. For it will reach Him who
takes care of the poor sorrowful hearts, and will not allow
them to go unavenged. But if you despise this and become
defiant, see whom you have brought upon you: if you succeed
and prosper, you may before all the world call God and
me a liar.

We have exhorted, warned, and protested enough; he who
will not heed or believe it may go on until he learns this by
experience Yet it must be impressed upon the young that they
may be careful not to follow the old lawless crowd, but keep
their eyes fixed upon God’s commandment, lest His wrath
and punishment come upon them too. It behooves us to do
no more than to instruct and reprove with God’s Word; but
to check such open wantonness there is need of the princes
and government, who themselves would have eyes and the
courage to establish and maintain order in all manner of trade
and commerce, lest the poor be burdened and oppressed nor
they themselves be loaded with other men’s sins.
Let this suffice as an explanation of what stealing is, that it
be not taken too narrowly but made to extend as far as we
have to do with our neighbors. And briefly, in a summary, as
in the former commandments, it is herewith forbidden, in
the first place, to do our neighbor any injury or wrong (in
whatever manner supposable, by curtailing, forestalling, and
withholding his possessions and property), or even to consent
or allow such a thing, but to interpose and prevent it.
And, on the other hand, it is commanded that we advance
and improve his possessions, and in case he suffers want, that
we help, communicate, and lend both to friends and foes.
Whoever now seeks and desires good works will find here
more than enough such as are heartily acceptable and pleasing
to God, and in addition are favored and crowned with excellent
blessings, that we are to be richly compensated for all
that we do for our neighbor’s good and from friendship; as
King Solomon also teaches Prov. 19, 17: He that hath pity
upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath
given will He pay him again. Here, then you have a rich Lord,
who is certainly sufficient for you, and who will not suffer
you to come short in anything or to want; thus you can with
a joyful conscience enjoy a hundred times more than you could
scrape together with unfaithfulness and wrong. Now, whoever
does not desire the blessing will find wrath and misfortune

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Clearly Basiat echos this sentiment in his term legal plunder. In fact, the 7th commandment defines 'legal plunder' as immoral and actually illegal in natural law.

Go figure.

May the LORD bless you and keep you
May the LORD make His face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you
May the LORD lift up His face unto you and give you peace
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