Pope Francis General Audience



Wednesday October 31, 2018
On the 7th Commandment: ‘Thou Shall Not Steal’ 
‘It’s worthwhile to open oneself to a broader reading of This Commandment, focusing the subject of the property of goods in the light of Christian wisdom’

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Continuing with the explanation on the Decalogue, today we come to the Seventh Word: “Thou shalt not steal.”

Listening to this Commandment, we think of the subject of theft and of respect of others’ property. There is no culture in which theft and abuse of goods is licit. In fact, human sensibility is very susceptible when it comes to the defense of possession. However, it’s worthwhile to open oneself to a broader reading of this Word, focusing the subject of the property of goods in the light of Christian wisdom.

The Social Doctrine of the Church speaks of the universal destination of goods. What does it mean? Let us listen to what the Catechism says: “In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labour and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race” (n. 2402). And again: “The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise” (n. 2403).[1]

Providence, however, has not provided a world “in series,” there are differences, diverse conditions, diverse cultures, thus we can live providing for one another. The world is rich in resources to ensure the primary goods to all. Yet many live in scandalous indigence and the resources, used without criterion, are deteriorating. But the world is only one! Humanity is only one![2] Today the wealth of the world is in the hands of the minority, of a few, and poverty, rather, misery and suffering is of many, of the majority.

If there is hunger on earth, it’s not because there is a lack of food! Rather, because of the demands of the market, sometimes it is destroyed; it’s thrown away. What is lacking is a free and farsighted entrepreneurship, which ensures adequate production, and solidary planning, which ensures an equitable distribution. The Catechism says again: “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself” (n. 2404). All wealth, to be good, must have a social dimension.

In this perspective, the positive and broad meaning appears of the Commandment to “not steal.” “The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence” (Ibid.). No one is the absolute owner of goods: he is an administrator of goods. Possession is a responsibility: “But I am rich in everything . . . “ This is a responsibility you have. And every good subtracted from the logic of God’s Providence is betrayed, it’s betrayed in its most profound sense. What I possess is truly what I know I can give, I am open, so I’m rich not only in what I possess, but also in generosity, generosity also as a duty to give the wealth, so that all can share in it. In fact, if I’m unable to give something, it’s because that thing possesses me, has power over me and I’m a slave of it. The possession of goods is an occasion to multiply them with creativity and to use them with generosity, and thus grow in charity and freedom.

Christ Himself, though He was God, “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself (Philippians 2:6-7) and He enriches us with His poverty (Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9). While humanity is eager to have more, God redeems it by making Himself poor: that Crucified Man paid for all an inestimable ransom on behalf of God the Father, “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4; Cf. Gc 5:11). What makes us rich isn’t goods but love. We have heard so many times what the people of God says: “The devil enters by the pockets.” It begins with love of money, the hunger to possess; then vanity follows: “Ah, I’m rich and I boast about it”; and, in the end, pride and arrogance. This is the devil’s way of acting in us. But the door of entry is the pockets.

Dear brothers and sisters, once again Jesus Christ reveals to us the full meaning of Scripture. “Not to steal” means : love with your goods. Take advantage of your means to love as you can. Then your life becomes good and possession becomes truly a gift, because life is not the time to possess but to love. Thank you.

Original text: Italian
ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester