|Sermons on the Heidelberg
By Rev. G. Van
Psalter No.389 st. 1.
Read Ephesians 4.
Psalter No. 161 st. 7,8, 9.
Psalter No.7 st. 1,2,3.
Psalter No.204 st. 3,4.
XLII. LORD'S DAY.
My dear hearers,
It is a very notable
admonition which we read in Jesus' famous sermon on the
mount, namely, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon
The Lord Himself was poor,
poorer than the foxes, who had holes, and poorer than the
birds of the air, who had nests, but He had no place whereon
to lay His head. Neither did the Lord make any effort to
become rich. He turned from Satan in disdain when he offered
Him the kingdoms of the earth.
Hence the Lord will not
condone that lust of money, that thirst for gold, that
thirst for great wealth in His people. Therefore He says,
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth."
By the word treasures you must
not understand those things that belong to the necessities
of life, such as food and drink, clothing and shelter, etc.
By treasures the Lord means those things which indicate
abundance and luxury, such as gold, silver, beautiful
furniture, clothes, and in one word, all that for which
earthly-minded people slave, sacrifice everything, pollute
their conscience and even hazard their soul and their
Hence the Lord's admonition is
aimed at such pursuit of treasures in which the world is
engrossed, and in which it places its trust. He does not
advise against zeal and thrift, industry and prayerful
planning to save either for ourselves or for an evil day, or
for helping others in need, but rather against excessive,
wrong, ye a sinful pursuit of temporal things.
And alas, that is done so
much. Since the fall man has made material things his god,
the treasures of earth are his desire, they have his heart.
And to obtain them he lies, robs, steals and practices
usury, he sins against his soul and hazards his salvation.
We see this in Achan. For a few hundred pieces of silver, a
garment and some gold, he brought judgment upon the army of
Israel and a curse upon himself. He was stoned and relegated
to hell. And think of Gehazi, who, for a handful of silver
brought shame upon the Lord, the God of Israel and upon His
servant, and Naaman's leprosy upon himself. And think also
of Judas who for thirty pieces of silver betrayed his
Master, and sold his life and his salvation.
How good and loving the Lord
Jesus is then, when he calls to us, "Do not thus. Lay not up
for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust
doth corrupt. For where your treasure is, there will your
heart be also." Yea, how good and loving our God is, for it
pleased Him to cast up a bulwark against that sin in the
Commandment that now requires our attention.
You will find our text in Exod. 20:15 "Thou shalt not
Upon these words our catechetical instruction is based as
you will find recorded in the Heidelberg Catechism:
XLII. LORD'S DAY.
Q. 110. What doth God forbid In
the eighth commandment?
A. God forbids not only those
thefts, and robberies, which are punishable by the
magistrate; but he comprehends under the name of theft all
wicked tricks and devices, whereby we design to appropriate
to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbor: whether
it be by force, or under the appearance of right, as by
unjust weights, ells, measures, fraudulent merchandise,
false coins, usury, or by any other way forbidden by God; as
also all covetousness, all abuse and waste of his
Q. 111. But what doth God
require in this commandment?
A. That I promote the advantage
of my neighbor in every instance I can or may; and deal with
him as I desire to be dealt with by others: further also
that I faithfully labor, so that I may be able to relieve
The subject which requires our
attention today calls us again to the foot of the mount
where God gave his law. It has already been our privilege to
receive blessed lessons there. There we learned to know in
what relationship man, especially God's child, stands to the
Lord. He is the Lord, our God, Who brought us out of the
house of bondage of sin and the world.
We also learned that we must
serve Him alone, that we must serve Him reverently in spirit
and in truth, that we must serve Him always, but especially
on our Sabbath day.
Then the Lawgiver taught us
childlike submission. He showed us His great care for our
life and for the most sacred relationship on earth, namely,
marriage. We showed you the blessing of wedlock, that union
of husband and wife, willed and instituted by our Creator,
which in His Word He declares to be an example of the unity
of Christ and His church, and which Christ honored with His
presence and miracles.
Next we showed you the
corruption of man. Through sin the holy delight and desire
for communion of husband and wife has become sinful and
unbridled, so that the lusts of our flesh reach out to a
stranger, yea even to various loathsome objects. We shall
not record further the list of sins committed against the
seventh commandment by thoughts, words, and deeds, in
marriage, outside of marriage and even against marriage.
Finally, we showed the
beneficial purpose of the seventh commandment, which we
shall not now repeat.
Now in accordance with Questions and Answers 110 and 111,
we draw your attention to: The loving care of the
Lord for our possessions.
Dear hearers, how exalted
and glorious the care of the Lord was shown in regard to the
possessions which in His sovereign pleasure He has given to
the children of men, when on Mount Sinai it was heard from
the mouth of the Lawgiver, "Thou shalt not steal."
Permit me to show you in the first place:
(1) The great necessity of
this commandment. This will be evident when we notice man's
We believe we are not too bold
when we affirm that all men, none excepted, are thieves. Are
we not all born as thieves? It is unnecessary to state that
the holy man Jesus Christ is not included in this
"Thou shalt not steal," does
this commandment not immediately carry us back in thought to
Paradise, to the origin of the iniquities that prevail
against us, of which David complains in the sixty-fifth
Psalm? For there in Paradise, the greatest and most wicked
theft on earth was committed.
You ask by whom that dreadful
theft was committed, and the answer must be, "It was
committed by the man who was created by the Lord - good and
in God's image, in true knowledge, righteousness and
holiness, that he might rightly know God, his Creator,
heartily love Him and live with Him in eternal happiness,
that man with whom God graciously had made a covenant. He is
What has he stolen? He has
taken of the fruit of the tree which the Lord had separated
from all the trees of Paradise to be a tree of testing, to
test his love, his adherence and his fidelity. He has taken
unlawfully of that tree of which God had said, "Thou shalt
not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou
shalt surely die." And from that tree he took and ate. Oh
You ask what the result was of
Adam's theft. The dreadful result is that we are now all
born as thieves. For there in Paradise Adam opened his heart
to evil covetousness, the thief entered his heart, and as a
canker and pest he corrupts our entire nature. Since now his
nature has become thievish and rapacious, he could only
beget children having the same nature as he. Adam also begot
a son after his own image and likeness, hence, just as
thievish and rapacious as he.
Therefore, parents, when you
notice the thievish nature of your children, when you see
their little hands reaching for forbidden things even before
the children can talk or walk, do not say, "At what an early
age wickedness enters the heart of a child," but rather say,
"At what an early age evil comes out from the heart." It was
already in the heart when the child was born, it needs only
to come out. Man is not a thief because he steals. but he
steals because he is a thief.
And since that first theft in
Paradise that evil has developed terribly. It has eaten as a
canker. Hence it was indisputably necessary that the Lord
erect a bulwark against it in the eighth commandment.
The necessity will be more
evident as we notice the extent of these sins and when we
consider how men steal. The Catechism mentions a list of
matters in which men steal and by which men steal.
Come, beloved, permit me to speak about these
In Exodus 21 we read of
stealing men. That was done especially when slavery was
practiced. Thus Joseph said to the butler, "For indeed I was
stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews." And such a
thing often happened formerly, when men were considered as
merchandise. You can well imagine the grief such a theft
caused. Think of the grief of the parents whose daughter was
carried away and made to serve Naaman the Syrian. How
thankful we should be to the Lord that we, parents and
children, are spared such grief. For the abolition of
slavery we thank God alone and the light of His Word.
In Exodus 22 we also read of
stealing animals. "If a man steal an ox, or a sheep, and
kill it, or sell it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox
and four sheep for a sheep."
Men also steal by peculation.
Peculators are those who appropriate to themselves unjustly,
public money or property, thereby enriching themselves. In
these days there is much of such dishonesty and theft in
many countries. It is also done by evading taxes, etc.
There is also church theft.
That is committed when property of the church or of
religious service, or for religious purposes, or of the poor
of the church, is unjustly diminished, or squandered, or
embezzled, or lost.
How do men steal? They steal
by unrighteous wars, by highway robbery and piracy, by
burglary, by having and using divers weights, and divers
measures, one for buying and one for selling. All these
types of thefts are punishable by the authorities.
If this were all, it would be
very terrible, but there is still much more.
Before God they are not only
thieves who appropriate property of others and hence are
punishable by the earthly judge. But you, too, are a thief
who defraud your neighbor udder a pretense of fairness.
You who have a true scale and
just weights but still weigh so that the customer does not
receive his due, you, too, are a thief.
You, who with a true measure
know how to measure so that the customer does not receive
his full length, you are a thief.
You, who know how to fill a
measure so that it seems full at the top, but is hollow at
the bottom, you are a thief.
You, who mix your wares with
wares of lesser quality than you would advertise or sell as
such, you are a thief.
You, too, are a thief, who pay
with counterfeit money or worthless checks.
You, too, are banded by God as
a thief who misuse your neighbor's need to loan him money at
a high rate of interest. God knows you as a userer.
But you, too, have
transgressed the eighth commandment who make debts, which
you know you cannot repay.
You, too are a thief, who do
not return what you have found. You, too, are a thief who
declare yourself bankrupt in order to be exempt from paying
You, too, are a thief who hold
back the hire of your servants or permit them to work for
too meager wages. James pronounces God's judgment upon you;
he says that your riches are corrupted; and your garments
are moth-eaten, because the hire of the laborers which is of
you kept back by fraud crieth to heaven for vengeance.
But then you, too, who accept
money, but do not perform your duties, are a thief.
Thus we could go on, but what
do you think? Could anyone truthfully say, "I am free from
that sin." The fact that these sins are so general, does not
give us liberty to commit them. "They all do it so I do it
too." God does not reckon thus.
And now I have not yet spoken
of spiritual thieves.
They are people who rob the
Lord of His honor.
They are people who think
themselves happy with a stolen Jesus.
They are people who
appropriate to themselves unjustly the promises of salvation
in God's Word.
They are those unworthy
communicants who steal the bread of the children.
They are those wicked
deceivers whose preaching sends men with a fancied heaven
down to hell.
They are also those Sabbath
breakers who rob God of His day.
And they are those who rob
their own souls of salvation.
But what do you think, my dear
hearers, does not this list which could be extended much
farther, show the necessity of the eighth commandment.
That necessity will be still
more evident when we notice the unreasonableness of this
We see its unreasonableness
immediately when we ask ourselves, "How do I want to be
treated?" The proverb says, "Do unto others as you want
others to do unto you." Rather I would remind you of the
words which the Lord Jesus, the Teacher of all virtues, gave
to His disciples, "As ye would that men should do to you, do
ye also to them likewise." (Luke 6:31) Even heathens have
adopted these words and praised them as the perfect rules of
righteousness and equity.
The Lord Jesus wants every
man's own feelings to determine what he shall be for
another. We could well consider this with every commandment
of the second table, but especially the eighth commandment
demands that we shall do thus with our neighbors.
Oh, we are such cunning
lawyers; we know so well what is right and equitable when it
concerns ourselves. Thus we can use ourselves as a rule of
conduct to determine how we shall treat others.
Well then, my dear hearers,
consider the pain and grief others cause you when they
defraud you, when you do not get your full measure of coal,
when you buy and need ten yards and receive nine and a half,
when you receive poor quality of flour and slate for
anthracite. In a word, what a vexation to be deceived. But
then, you must not deceive another either. Do unto others as
you would have others do unto you. Jacob experienced the
unpleasantness of it with Laban, who deceived him ten times
because he himself had deceived his own father.
If you were poor, how would
you want others to treat you? You would want those who had
more earthly goods to take pity on you, to give you a
portion of their abundance. You would think it terrible if
sitting by a warm fire, they would say, "Depart in peace,
and be warm"; if they were sitting at a bountiful table, and
begrudged you the crumbs; if they had an abundance of
clothing and covers, and let you walk in rags. If so, dear
hearers, do unto others as you would have others do to you
if you were poor.
And ye poor people, how would
you want to be treated if you were rich, if you were the
employer? Would you not want your employees to work for
their wages? Would you not want them to be careful with your
goods, and thankful for your favors and gifts? Well, then,
go and do thou likewise.
It is not enough not to lay
our hands on our neighbor's goods, but you must also, as the
Catechism says so correctly in the answer to Question 111,
promote the advantage of your neighbor in every instance you
can or may, and deal with him as you desire to be dealt with
by others, and that in every circumstance in a right
In his explanation of the
eighth commandment the Instructor mentions two vices, of
which I then, also will speak a few words.
The first one is
covetousness. A covetous person is a despicable, a terrible
person. God's Word classes him with the greatest sinners.
Thieves and covetous people go hand in hand, in fact
covetousness is indirect thievery.
Covetous people commit
indirect thievery towards God, Whom they refuse to honor
with their goods. Read the injunction in Prov. 3:9 "Honor
the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of
all thine increase." They also commit indirect robbery of
the poor, from whom they withhold that which God had given
them to give to the poor. This is thievery to the worst
They also rob themselves.
"There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is
common among men: a man to whom God hath given riches,
wealth, and honor, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul
of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not the power to
eat of it." (Eccl. 6:1,2).
Paul calls covetousness a root
of all evil. Covetousness displeases God greatly. God will
not have covetous people in his heaven. Covetousness is an
inducement to stealing, yea, to all sins, as for example we
see in Judas and others of his kind.
The other vice which the
Instructor mentions in his answer is all abuse and waste of
This can be done by reveling
and drinking parties, by luxuriance and extravagance in
clothing and furniture; also by disregarding that which God
gave you, by neglecting your household, by laziness and
idleness, and by gambling, for when you win you steal from
your neighbor and when you lose in gambling or speculations
you steal from yourself and your family or heirs.
From all we have enumerated it
is clear and plain that this commandment, "Thou shalt not
steal" is very necessary.
(2) Permit me in the second place to show you the justice
of this demand.
"Thou shalt not steal." Can
you imagine a more just demand than this. This demand that
we may not illegally appropriate the goods of our neighbor
or rob him of it, presupposes the right to have property, or
any certain object that we may call our own. The saying
"Property is theft" is therefore thoroughly false. They also
who speak of equality in the sense that all people should
have an equal amount of goods and therefore strive toward an
equal division of all property, are mistaken. They work for
something that never shall and that never can happen, and if
it could happen, it would not last for even a day.
No, God gave to every man his
own convenient portion. Before the fall of man God gave him
dominion over all creatures. (See Gen. 1:26-28) In the
second world, after the Deluge, God spake to Noah, "Every
moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the
green herb have I given you all things." (Gen. 9:3) Thus man
received all visible things as a gift of God. Nevertheless
God remains the dispenser of it. To Him belong the world and
its fulness, the gold and the silver and the cattle upon a
thousand hills, yea the kingdoms of the earth. They are all
His and He gives to whom He wills and what He wills and as
much as He wills.
To His people, the people of
Israel He gave Canaan, the most beautiful and the best
country of the world. Therefore when Israel took that
country, it was not stealing, but it was taking into
possession that which God gave them. (Thus we believe that
God gave us this country. Therefore we want to keep it and
when necessary fight in its defense.)
Thus, the Lord gives to every
man his own portion, to the one much and to the other
little. To Boaz He gave wealth, and Naomi was glad to have a
daughter-in-law who was permitted to glean on the fields of
Boaz. To the King the Lord gives a scepter, and to another a
spade. The rich and poor meet together: the Lord is the
maker of them all.
But, although the Lord gives
more wealth to one than to another, the wealthier is not for
that reason the happier or more blessed one. No, indeed. To
some the Lord gives but little material possessions, yet
much happiness and blessing and joy and gratitude. To David
the Lord gave riches and honor, but his sons were a sorry
set. There was but one who gave him joy — Solomon. The
others were murderers, and fornicators. I will not now
enumerate all they did. And what troubles did the rich Jacob
and Job have!
Even now the Lord gives
everyone his own portion, and that shall remain so unto the
end of the world. And the Lord forbids the one to lay hands
on the goods of another.
And still, how one is inclined
to do it in days of poverty. What preventive grace is
necessary to keep us from helping ourselves by deceitful
methods. Agur knew he was prone to do so and therefore he
prayed God to be saved from poverty "lest I be poor and
steal and take the name of the Lord in vain." Dear child, if
you ever are in such dire distress that you plan to steal,
then first, before executing your plans, bow your knees
before your heavenly Father and tell Him that His child is
going to steal, because He kept you waiting too long, and
then ask His blessing upon your intention.
How often we are dissatisfied
with our lot. How often we wish for the portion of
And still what a privilege it
is to be poor, but to be rich in God; we would be free from
many cares. If you are rich it may be a blessing if you also
receive grace to use it according to God's Word and to God's
glory, so that your wealth will not be to your destruction.
"Thou shalt not steal," the justice of this demand is also
founded in true love to the neighbor.
As we remarked before, it is
true of every person in the world that God gave him his just
portion. To that portion he has a divine right and it is
given him so that he therewith can acquire what is necessary
and profitable and if possible what is pleasant, and also to
glorify and serve His God.
But if you rob him of it, do
you not give him reason to be sad? Do you show neighborly
love when you grieve him by your theft?
"Covetous people," is it not
because of you that the cries of widows and orphans has
reached the ears of the Lord Sabaoth?
"Usurer," is it not your fault
that many are reduced to beggary?
"Thief," how many tears have
you caused to be wept by those from whom you stole?
"Cheater," is it showing
brotherly love when you embitter the life of the merchants
and store-keepers are troubled about an empty cash-box and
an account book full of the names of people who do not pay!
That is your work, "cheater." And do you realize that
because of your failure to pay, the merchant in turn is
unable to pay his obligations?
Finally, the justice of the
commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," is founded upon a
Many think that caring for
one's own welfare demands the opposite of honesty. They
think their covetousness and avarice by unjust weights and
measures will profit them. "If you want to prosper in the
world, you must not be too conscientious," they say. "If you
want to do business," they say, "you must not live in the
narrow conscience street." If you remark about their lying
and their dishonesty, they say, "Oh, well, that's business."
A fourth one says, "The world wants to be deceived, so
But, my dear hearers, it is
not true that stealing, lying and deceiving will profit
anyone. The reasonings we just mentioned have led many to
God's Word says, "For what
shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and
lose his own soul?" The Lord says the curse shall remain in
the house of the thief.
And is this not often seen,
even on this side of the grave? Does God not punish the
covetous person? Does He not take away again from the thief
that which he had stolen? Stolen riches often do not reach
the 4th generation. Has not many a one marred his reputation
for life by transgressing the eighth commandment?
And what shall eternity be for
the thief and the covetous person? God says emphatically
that no thieves, no covetous, no extortioners shall inherit
the kingdom of God. Which kingdom, then, shall they inherit?
That of Satan. And oh, how their un-righteously gotten
riches shall burn upon their conscience together with the
money they have withheld from the church and the poor.
(3) Permit me in the third place to speak about the
salutary purpose of the Lawgiver.
But let us first sing: Psalter
No.7, stanzas 1, 2, 3.
Dear hearers, according to
my humble opinion, the purpose of the Lawgiver in
proclaiming the eighth commandment is three fold:
(a) that we should learn to
know ourselves, not as a pious, honest person, but as a
thief and covetous person.
And who, considering the wide
application of the eighth commandment, can put his hand in
his own bosom and be guiltless?
Many who have a
reputation of being honest and generous must accuse himself
in solitude before God, if not of thievery, then because of
his thievish nature. Those who are the most boastful of
their honesty are often the least trustworthy. Never let a
pious Pharisee care for your uncounted sheep, for often you
will find yourself deceived. And beware of pious thieves who
walk with a Bible under their arm to deceive you. A wealthy
man wanted to have some repair work done in a room full of
costly treasures, and therefore asked the contractor to send
an honest man to do the work. When the poor man who was sent
entered the room, and, looking around, saw all the expensive
articles there, he cried out, "O God, save me from
stealing." When the wealthy man heard the poor man speak
thus, he asked for another workman, one who was more
But the contractor answered,
"I have no more honest man than he, and it is my experience
that such thieves do not steal."
Have you learned to know
yourself as a thief before God? Have you learned to pray,
"Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies and not to
covetousness." God's people learn to know and accuse
themselves as material and spiritual thieves. And that is
the purpose of the Lord.
(b) His purpose is also that
we should take refuge.
To whom must we go for refuge?
To Him who never laid hold on that which was not His, but
still complained, "Then I restored that which I took not
And why? People of God, He did
so in order that He by His passive and active obedience
could present our bloodred soul before God as one who has
never robbed or stolen and has never practiced covetousness
(c) Yea, the salutary purpose
of the Lawgiver is that all things should be done decently
and in order so there would be no beggar in Israel, and that
no thief, no covetous person, no Ananias or Sapphira should
profane the table of the covenant.
Yea, the purpose is that we
should learn to implore the Lord for His Spirit and His
grace, to deliver and save us from the demon of the world
and from the unrighteous mammon.
Dear hearers, thus we have shown you God's faithful care
for man's property. Permit me finally to admonish you.
Beware of covetousness; it is
a root of all evil, as we see in Achan, Gehazi, Judas,
Ananias, Sapphira, and many others. Let these examples serve
as warnings for you.
And do not waste the gifts of
God by pride, by living above your means, by immoderate
eating and drinking.
Beware of idleness, for
idleness is the parent of vice.
If you have stolen, return it,
and if you have withheld your tithe from the poor, give now
what you have withheld. Do as Zacchaeus, who restored
fourfold what he had taken from any man by false accusation
and gave half of his goods to the poor. You may be certain
Zacchaeus never made a more profitable transaction than this
— it surely made him no poorer.
And if you cannot return
what you have stolen — we have an advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the
propitiation for our sins.
Remember the admonition of the
Lord Jesus, mentioned in the introduction, "Lay not up for
yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth
corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." The
Lord does not want His children to be enthralled with
transitory things. Then He adds a notable exhortation. "But
lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither
moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break
through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will
your heart be also."
ministers have written sermons on the fifty-two Lord's Days
as we find them in our Heidelberg Catechism. One of these
ministers and servants of the Most High, is the late Rev. G.
Van Reenen, of the Netherlands. Wen he was not able to
preach any more because of a throat ailment, God inclined
his heart to write sermons, and work while it was day. This
work he continued until the day of his death in the year
Rev. Van Reenen has written
these sermons for the common people. In all these sermons he
breathes the spirit of humility and self-denial. Throughout
all these sermons he indicates the necessity of knowing by
experience these three important parts, misery, redemption,
and gratitude, as he himself was not a stranger
Van Reenen does not know that his Catechism sermons and
others have been translated into the English language. He
confessed in his life not to be worthy of any honor or
praise; that we may then by grace give all honor and praise
to Israel's God and King, saying with the Psalmist, "Not
unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory,
for Thy mercy and for Thy truth's sake." Psalm
115:1. (Pastor J. Van Zweden)
Reprinted and Translated from the
Holland by the Netherlands Reformed congregations in America
(1955). This series on the Ten Commandments was taken from
the W. B. Eerdmans' December, 1979 edition of the book,
The Heidelberg Catechism, by Rev. G. Van
to the Main
Return to the