Lesson 70: Handiwork

The eighth commandment is Thou shalt not steal; and My duty towards my neighbour is . . . to be true and just in all my dealings; to keep my hands from picking and stealing. That is, you owe it to your neighbours to be just in deed, in all that you do with your hands.

To steal is to take what belongs to another, even if it is something small and not worth much (“picking”); a lump of sugar from mother’s cupboard, another boy’s cigarette-card, another girl’s hair-ribbon. Bad habits are like weeds, start in small ways, grow quickly. Remember Judas Iscariot (St. John 12, 4 to 6; St. Matthew 26, 14 to 16); be honest in the little things, and you will not fail when big temptations come.

To steal is also to keep what is not your own; things you find (make every effort to discover the owner), things lent to you (books - I don’t know how many books I have lent to Haggerston people, which have not been returned although I wrote my name in each), money that you owe to tradesmen or friends (Christians should always pay bills promptly). And if you keep what you know has been stolen by some one else, or encourage another to steal, it is the same as if you did it yourself.

"To be true and just in all my dealings” means not copying in school, cheating in games; not wasting your employer’s time by being deliberately late at work or doing badly the work for which you are paid; not cheating in selling or buying; not idling and living on the kindness of others (2 Thessalonians 3, 10). In short, this commandment tells you to keep your hands off all that belongs to other people, to take care that you have hands which you are not ashamed to show to God.

Have a look at Psalm 24. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place?” (That is, “Who shall go to heaven?”). “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.”