The Westminster Larger Catechism was composed three and a half centuries ago. And yet it continues to speak the truth on economic matters to those who have ears to hear it.
To those engaged in business, to those with wealth, to those who deal with commerce and trade, to Wall Street “fat cats,” Westminster has this to say:
- God calls you “by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.” (WLC 141). You must look out for more than just yourself.
- You must abstain from: “theft, robbery, man-stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing landmarks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depredation; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him” (WLC 142). Cheating others is always wrong, even when it may be legal.
- You ought never to be engaged in defrauding the weak, but instead should be “comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent” (WLC 135). Look at the aged, the ignorant, and the disadvantaged as objects of special pity not as opportunities for special profits.
In short, the Westminster Divines would have you be honest and just in all your dealings and look out for the well being of others, not just your own.
And to those engaged in protest, to those angry with the “haves” in our society, to the disaffected Americans occupying Wall Street and the young people occupying cities everywhere in the world, Westminster has this to say:
- God calls us “by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own” (WLC 141). It is no sin to further one’s wealth by just and lawful means.
- You must abstain from: “envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God hath given us” (WLC 142). Laziness, envy, and licentiousness are sins just as much as greed and oppression.
- God also prohibits “speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, talebearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God” (WLC 145). Make sure your words are accurate, fair, and do not assume the worst about those you dislike. Bankers are made in the image of God too.
Praise God for the Ten Commandments and the church’s catechisms which expound them. It’s amazing how the truth always manages to be relevant.