The Seventh Commandment
He who steals [i.e., kidnaps] a man, and sells him... if he be found in his hand, dying he shall die.
AC 8905. Thou shalt not steal, signifies that no one’s spiritual goods must be taken away from him, and that those things which belong to the Lord are not to be attributed to self.
AC 8906. ...That this is signified by “stealing” is because riches and wealth in the spiritual sense are the knowledges of good and truth, in general all those things which are of faith and charity, that is, which are of spiritual life in man. Therefore, to take these things away from anyone is “to steal” in the spiritual sense. And because all spiritual goods, that is, all things of faith and charity are from the Lord alone, and absolutely nothing from man, therefore by “stealing” is also signified to attribute to oneself what belongs to the Lord.
Those who do this are also called “thieves and robbers” in John 10:1, 2, 9, 10 [quoted in yesterday’s reading]. “To enter by the door into the sheepfold” is to enter by the Lord, for the Lord is the “door,” as He Himself says; “the sheep” are those who are in charity and thence in faith. These enter by the Lord when they acknowledge that everything of faith and charity is from Him, for then faith and charity flow in from Him. But to attribute them to others, especially to themselves, is to take them away, thus “to kill and to destroy.” Those who attribute to themselves what is the Lord’s also place merit in works, and make themselves righteous....
AC 8906:3. [In Hosea and Joel, quoted yesterday], the last state of the church is called “a thief who will climb up into the houses, and enter in through the windows.” [That is,] falsity... will then take possession of the whole man, both of his will and of his understanding, and thus will take away all truth and good. Something similar is meant by a “thief” in Obadiah... and Matthew [also quoted yesterday].
AC 8906:4. ...If a man be found who has stolen a soul of his brothers of the sons of Israel, and has made gain on him while he sold him, that thief shall be killed, that thou mayest put away the evil from the midst of thee (Deut. 24:7).
In the internal sense, “the men of the sons of Israel” mean those who are in the truths and goods of faith. Thus in the abstract sense they mean the truths and goods of faith.... And therefore “to steal a man of the sons of Israel” is to take these [truths and goods] away, and “to sell him” is to cast them off, and also to make them serve. For the truths and goods of faith, being from the Lord, are in a free state, and serve the Lord alone. But when they are cast off, they then come into a servile state, for they serve any evil of the love of self or of the love of the world, thus any bodily lust. Hence comes the derivation and correspondence of the above law. And as then from being free, the truth and good of the church become servile, thus from being alive they become dead, therefore the penalty, which is the outcome, is “death.”
AC 1798:3. Take only the Precepts of the Decalogue. The first of these is to worship the Lord God. He who has the life of love or of charity worships the Lord God, because this is his life. Another precept is to keep the Sabbath. He who is in the life of love, or in charity, keeps the Sabbath holy, for nothing is sweeter to him than to worship the Lord, and to glorify Him every day. The precept, “Thou shalt not murder,” is altogether of charity. He who loves his neighbor as himself shudders at doing anything that injures him, still more at killing him. So too the precept, “Thou shalt not steal;” for he who has the life of charity would rather give of his own to his neighbor than take anything away from him. And so with the precept, “Thou shalt not commit adultery:” he who is in the life of charity rather guards his neighbor’s wife, lest anyone should offer her such injury, and regards adultery as a crime against conscience, and such as destroys conjugial love and its duties. To covet the things that are the neighbor’s is also contrary to those who are in the life of charity, for it is of charity to desire good to others from oneself and one’s own. Such therefore by no means covet the things which are another’s.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection
- AC 8906 says, “...Riches and wealth in the spiritual sense are the knowledges of good and truth, in general all those things which are of faith and charity, that is, which are of spiritual life in man.” Do you feel rich or blessed in having knowledge of the Word and of spiritual life? How might someone steal this knowledge away from you? How can you protect yourself against such spiritual (identity) theft?
- Perhaps we see spiritual theft or robbery going on in the “selling” of the common falsities that the natural world is all there is; that cohabitation is just as good as marriage, or is an important test before you get married; that happiness comes from material things and status in society; and so forth. What other examples come to mind?
- AC 8906:4. What might be an example of a truth or a good—something good the Church stands for—being kidnapped and made to serve some selfish purpose? Once someone accused Swedenborg of making up the whole concept of conjugial love and its blessings to lure people into the New Church (see CL 82:1). If that accusation were true, that would be an example of spiritual kidnapping. What are some other examples?