Property and Government
Wednesday of Pentecost 25
14 November 2018
The government has coercive power specifically for the purpose of restraining wickedness and protecting the weak and innocent, if it will use it. The government and our leaders have a duty to protect the private property of those who are unable to protect themselves. The Seventh Commandment, "You shall not steal," compels government to do this. Thus, properly elected leaders are required to punish those who disregard the property rights of the innocent. If they do not see to this significant office and work, they themselves become guilty of the oppression of the innocent. The mantle of power can never be worn lightly.
On the other hand, it is not the church's job to enforce morality, whether in connection with the Seventh Commandment or any other. It is the church's job to proclaim the Word of God. External enforcement belongs to government (Rm 13:4). Preaching belongs to the church. No doubt, the church reinforces this God-given task of government by faithfully preaching the law of God, but enforcement remains in the provenance of good government. The church may never dilute her mission from Christ by focusing on issues of external government and good earthly order and this is why she does not preach politics. She must focus all her strength and effort upon preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and the gifts of His kingdom: forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation. Government will never (and should never) preach these things. Therefore, the church must. Christ commands this (Is 61:1; Mt 10:7; 28:19; Mk 3:14; 2Ti 4:2).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"[The Seventh Commandment] must be impressed upon the young (Deut 6:7) so that they may be careful not to follow the old lawless crowd, but keep their eyes fixed upon God's commandment, lest His wrath and punishment come upon them too. It is necessary for us to do no more than to teach and to warn with God's Word. But to check such open greediness there is need for the princes and government. They themselves should take note and have the courage to establish and maintain order in all kinds of trade and commerce. They must do this lest the poor be burdened and oppressed and the leaders themselves be burdened with other people's sins."

Martin Luther, Large Catechism,
Romans 13:1-7

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (ESV)
Almighty God, You have granted us the gift of private property to be used for the benefit of our families and communities. Bless those who protect property rights with discernment and concern for equity, that your gifts might never be unrighteously taken from those to whom You have given them; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For all physicians, that they may acknowledge that healing power comes from God alone and that they may be upheld in this good office
For the gift of good citizenship, that all Christians would faithfully serve the godly purposes of government
For Pastor Ted Krey, and the Lutheran mission in the Caribbean, that God would bless the preaching of the gospel
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
Sent by in collaboration with
Constant Contact