Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:17)1
The last article in this series discussed the sin of greed, a form of covetousness sometimes considered a rich man’s sin, as with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. However, covetousness, greed, and lust have no financial boundaries:
For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness…. (Jeremiah 6:13)
Agur, the author of Proverbs 30, prayed to avoid this sin and its consequences, whether he was rich or poor:
Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is YHWH?2 or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. (Proverbs 30:8-9)
Consequently, one’s wealth or lack thereof is morally neutral. It is the love of money, not money itself, that is the root of all evil and, therefore, it is ultimately one’s heart attitude toward his possessions or lack thereof that determines this sin.
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12)
The issue is not wealth or possessions but whether these things are acquired by righteous or unrighteous means and whether they are employed to promote righteousness or unrighteousness. In other words, are your possessions being used to further your own kingdom or Yahweh’s3?
There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept [hoarded, NASB] for the owners thereof to their hurt. (Ecclesiastes 5:13)
Advantages of Wealth
Although riches are often accompanied by pitfalls, as described in Matthew 19:23-24, etc., a wealthy man who is able to keep his wealth in its proper perspective has advantages and opportunities a poor man does not. He has the means by which to prosper and help advance Yahweh’s kingdom and bless others:
The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not. (Proverbs 21:25-26)
Today’s English Version renders this same proverb:
A lazy man who refuses to work is only killing himself; all he does is think about what he would like to have. A righteous man, however, can give, and give generously. (Proverbs 21:25-26)
This is essentially what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus:
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)
Provided we can keep wealth in its proper perspective, Yahweh intends for Christians4 to prosper and increase our holdings so that we might utilize our wealth on behalf of Yahweh’s kingdom, His people, and the poor. As such, wealth becomes an evangelistic tool.
Some of the following can also be found in Thou shalt not steal. Because this information is as pertinent to the Tenth Commandment as it is to the Eighth Commandment, I have included it in this article as well.
The Bible tells us the poor will always be with us (Deuteronomy 15:11). However, we are also promised that the burdens of the poor will find more relief under Yahweh’s economic system than under man’s (Deuteronomy 15:4-6, etc.). In fact, under man’s welfare-glutted economic system, the poor multiply. Why is this?
In addition to the welfare system’s inherent flaws (some of which are cited below), welfare recipients are also being exploited at the hands of a covetous few. In such a welfare system as we find in the United States, the poor are not the only people benefitting from welfare. Consider Fredric Bastiat’s nineteenth-century prognostication:
But how is legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime…. If such a law – which may be an isolated case – is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.5
An article published by the Plymouth Rock Foundation revealed the ageless truth of Bastiat’s last statement:
“We’ve created a welfare monster that is a shocking indictment of our sense of priorities.” So said President Reagan in his 1987 State of the Union Address. Since 1950 the number of persons receiving public assistance and social welfare payments has increased from 6 million to more than 30 million (in 1984, latest overall figure available). In 1985 federal payments to individuals totaled $427.3 billion, while the total to be spent (by all gov. agencies) on “welfare” for fiscal year 1987 is estimated at $642 billion….
Poverty is big business: about 530,000 government employees are paid to staff the welfare machine. The monthly payroll [1987 figures] is $600 million, $7.2 billion a year! This doesn’t include the costs of offices, equipment, telephones and travel expense or the vendors who profit at the welfare spigot. Economists figure that it costs about three dollars to deliver $1.00 in public assistance to the poor, which means that only 25¢ out of every dollar spent on welfare gets to the poor, the other 75¢ stays in the pipeline to fuel the bureaucracy.6
These figures have only deteriorated in the last twenty years.
Coveting by Proxy
It is just as much a violation of the Tenth and Eighth Commandments if I covet and steal on behalf of someone else as it would be if I were to do so on my own behalf. It is no different for governments who covet and take what belongs to the industrious and rich and give it to the non-industrious, or even to those who, for no fault of their own, are disadvantaged or destitute.
When Barack Obama was campaigning for the presidency, he promoted the idea of “spreading the wealth.” Republicans would love for us to think it is only the Democrats who want to spread the wealth. Don’t be fooled – spreading the wealth is as much a Republican concept as it is a Democratic concept.
Col. Davy Crockett was perhaps the last congressman who understood that the government had no right to “spread the wealth”:
One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The speaker was just about to put the question to a vote when Crockett arose and spoke:
“Mr. Speaker – I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if there be, as any man in this House but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove the Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member on this floor knows it.
“We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I never heard that the government was in arrears to him.
“Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”7
Yahweh intends for the wealthy to take care of the deserving poor. However, it is not the Democrats’ or the Republicans’ or some agency’s or anyone else’s responsibility to spread around your wealth on your behalf without your permission. My wealth or lack thereof is my responsibility and your wealth or lack thereof is your responsibility, and we will both answer to Yahweh regarding our use of it.
Today’s government welfare programs are simply organized covetousness and theft. The government differs from the Mafia only in its size. The United States government has become an incredibly powerful organized mob that covets and takes the average citizen’s money under threats of fines, imprisonment, and property confiscation.
Today’s government covets and confiscates its citizens’ capital, their property, and their children’s inheritance and distributes them according to its own unlawful choosing, just as King Ahab coveted and stole Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21. Our response to the legislators should be the same as Naboth’s to King Ahab: “…YHWH forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.” (1 Kings 21:3)
Someone may object that, unlike our government, Ahab stole for his own personal aggrandizement. But theft is theft, whether the thief steals for himself or someone else. Besides, as demonstrated by the figures from the Plymouth Rock Foundation, government officials and their employees do benefit right along with the welfare recipients – even more so.
Ultimately, the poor do not benefit from government welfare. The April 1985 Reader’s Digest ran an editorial review entitled “How Uncle Sam Robbed America’s Poor.” Its opening paragraph established the failure of welfare reform in the sixties:
A comprehensive, compelling new study of the working-age poor shows that the welfare reforms of the 1960s did not work. There were no victors – only victims – in America’s War on Poverty.8
Fifty years later, nothing has changed.
American economist and 1976 Nobel Prize winner in economics Milton Friedman reputedly said, “If you pay people to be poor, they will be poor.”
A September 1987 Reader’s Digest article entitled “Caging the Welfare Monster” elaborated upon the welfare system’s inherent failings:
Evidence abounds that welfare discourages work, weakens families and keeps people mired in poverty. “It could be renamed Aid to Create Dependent Families,” observes the Chicago Tribune. “It rewards failure and punishes success. That is the message handed down to children – parents of the next, bigger generation of welfare recipients.”9
The underlying suggestion is that welfare recipients should perhaps work for their handouts. The Bible puts it more bluntly:
…this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)
Yahweh’s law includes welfare provisions, but only those willing to work for them will receive the benefits:
And when ye [landowners] reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am YHWH your God. (Leviticus 19:9-10)
The poor and the stranger – those physically capable – were required to go into the fields and reap the gleanings themselves.
The government does use some of our money to subsidize what, in some instances, appear to be good causes. However, do not miss the operative phrase “our money.” Whether the cause is social security, Medicaid, workman’s compensation, public education, college loans, business grants, bankruptcy bailouts, domestic or foreign aid, food stamps, housing for the poor, farm subsidies, or disaster relief, the use of unconsenting citizens’ money still amounts to stealing. No matter how noble the cause, theft remains theft. Socialism is wonderful until you run out of other peoples’ money.
The power to covet and steal by “law” is no less a transgression of the Tenth and Eighth Commandments than it would be if I were to do the same with a pistol. If it is theft for an individual to covet and confiscate his neighbor’s automobile, sell it, take the proceeds, and give them to the Red Cross, it is also theft for a collective force to do essentially the same thing by means of taxation, coercion, and threats. This extends to other government and private abuses, such as occur via property taxes and the United States banking system.
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. (Micah 2:1-2)
Micah describes these coveters as those who not only oppress the man himself but also his heritage, or progeny. He covets and steals the inheritance of a man’s descendants. A better description cannot be found of the antebellum “legislators” who first proposed a property tax. Once passed and enforced, property tax transferred title of all private land from Yahweh to the deity WE THE PEOPLE and its government.10
Moreover the prince shall not take of the people’s inheritance by oppression, to thrust them out of their possession … that my people be not scattered every man from his possession. (Ezekiel 46:18)
Micah 2 and Ezekiel 46 are also an indictment against America’s usurious banking system. Ask the millions of people who are right now being dispossessed of their homes by the bankers if this is not true. Many homeowners are also just as guilty of covetousness and greed, as a result of borrowing and living beyond their means and enslaving themselves to the usurers until their debt is paid (Proverbs 22:7). In other words, much of America’s financial woes can be traced to the covetousness of both the bankers and the borrowers.
In Proverbs 28:16, Solomon wrote, “he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.” Hating covetousness will also keep most people from becoming slaves and from suffering the consequences when the notes come due during economic downturns.
May Yahweh help us to hate, shun, and reject covetousness and greed and all their related sins.
Click Here to Read Part 5
1. All Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Portions of Scripture have been omitted for brevity. If you have any questions regarding a passage, please open your Bible and study the text to ensure it has been properly used.
2. Where the Tetragrammaton – the four Hebrew characters transliterated “YHWH” and representing the personal name of God – has been unlawfully rendered the LORD or GOD in Scripture, I have taken the liberty to correct this error by inserting YHWH where appropriate. For a more thorough explanation concerning the sacred names of God, “The Third Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*
3. Yahweh is the personal Hebrew name of the God of the Bible. “The Third Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*
4. Not everyone claiming to be a Christian has been properly instructed in the biblical plan of salvation. Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:36-41, 22:1-16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:11-13; and 1 Peter 3:21 should be studied to understand what is required to be covered by the blood of Yeshua (Jesus’ given Hebrew name) and forgiven of your sins. For a more thorough explanation concerning baptism and its relationship to salvation, “Baptism by the Scriptures” and “Fifty Objections to Baptism Answered” may be read online, or the book Baptism: All You Wanted to Know and More may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for free.
5. Fredrick Bastiat, The Law (Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc.,  1987) p. 21.
6. “FAC-Sheet #49,” Plymouth Rock Foundation (Marlborough, NH), quoted in Curtis Dickenson, The Witness.
7. Col. David Crockett, quoted by Edward Sylvester Ellis, The Life of Colonel David Crockett (Philadelphia, PA: Porter & Coates, 1884).
8. Eugene H. Methvin, “How Uncle Sam Robbed America’s Poor,” Reader’s Digest, April 1985, p. 135.
9. Robert B. Carleson (former White House aide, United States Commissioner of Welfare, and Director of Social Welfare for California), “Caging the Welfare Monster,” Reader’s Digest, September 1987, p. 87.
10. For a more thorough discussion of property taxes, “The Eighth Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not steal may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $6 donation.*
*We are admonished in Matthew 10:8 “freely ye have received, freely give.” Although we have a suggested a price for our books, we do not sell them. In keeping with 2 Corinthians 9:7, this ministry is supported by freewill offerings. If you cannot afford the suggested price, inform us of your situation, and we will be pleased to provide you with whatever you need for whatever you can send.
Click Here to Read Part 5
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