BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (214): What should be our attitude towards material creation?

Rev. José Mario O. Mandía

Jesus explained the teaching about sexuality as having been established “from the beginning” (Matthew 19:4), when “male and female he created them…blessed them, and…said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’” (Genesis 1:27-28).

Likewise, we can trace the roots of the seventh commandment “from the beginning,” when “the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15; cf. 1:28-30). God made us all stewards of his material creation. The care for the environment is a Biblical teaching “from the beginning.”

So this is what the seventh commandment is all about. It “requires respect for the universal destination and distribution of goods and the private ownership of them, as well as respect for persons, their property, and the integrity of creation” (CCCC 503).

Aside from this, “the Church also finds in this Commandment the basis for her social doctrine which involves the correct way of acting in economic, social and political life, the right and the duty of human labor, justice and solidarity among nations, and love for the poor” (CCCC 503).

As mentioned above, this commandment defends the right of a person to own things, to “rule over” or “have dominion” (Genesis 1:28) over them. This right is, however, not an absolute right. One cannot keep on acquiring and keeping things which he does not need or which he does not have a right to own. On 5 June 2013, Pope Francis declared, “Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.” Wasted food is stolen food!

The Compendium teaches us: “The right to private property exists provided the property is acquired or received in a just way and that the universal destination of goods for the satisfaction of the basic needs of all takes precedence” (CCCC 504).

We defend the right to private property not for the sake of the property itself, but for the sake of human beings who need them (cf. Genesis 1:29).

“The purpose of private property is to guarantee the freedom and dignity of individual persons by helping them to meet the basic needs of those in their charge and also of others who are in need” (CCCC 505).

Photo: Yelyzaveta

“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.”

Pope Francis | June 5, 2013

What does the seventh commandment command us?

“The seventh commandment requires respect for the goods of others through the practice of justice and charity, temperance and solidarity. In particular, it requires respect for promises made and contracts agreed to, reparation for injustice committed and restitution of stolen goods, and respect for the integrity of creation by the prudent and moderate use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe with special attention to those species which are in danger of extinction (CCCC 506).

How about animals? We said last time that they cannot be treated as if they were one’s own children. So, what attitude should we take toward animals? The Catechism warns us about two opposite extremes.

“People must treat animals with kindness as creatures of God and avoid both excessive love for them and an indiscriminate use of them, especially by scientific experiments that go beyond reasonable limits and entail needless suffering for the animals” (CCCC 507).

What acts does this commandment consider sinful?

“Above all, the seventh commandment forbids theft, which is the taking or using of another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. This can be done also by paying unjust wages; by speculation on the value of goods in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others; or by the forgery of checks or invoices. Also forbidden is tax evasion or business fraud; willfully damaging private or public property; usury; corruption; the private abuse of common goods; work deliberately done poorly; and waste” (CCCC 508).

(Main image: Anna