Chapter 31. Seventh Commandment: Do Not Steal—Act Justly • 425
On his death bed, St. Vincent de Paul (1580–1660) was asked by a
novice what was the best way to serve the poor. He responded by telling
the novice that the most important thing is to love them because loving
them makes it possible for the needy to forgive those who give food to
them. St. John Chrysostom said this about ministry to the poor: “Not to
enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive
them of life. The goods we possess are theirs, not ours” (Homily on the
Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man).
Jesus teaches us, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the
person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Lk
3:11). St. James reinforces this truth. “If a brother or sister has nothing
to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in
peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities
of the body, what good is it?” (Jas 2:15-16).
Acts of charity for the poor are a good way to start living the
Church’s social teaching. Personal contact with those who need our help
fulfills Christ’s command to love the poor most effectively. But we are
called to heal not only the symptoms of poverty and injustice but also
their causes. This requires participation in political and social processes
to correct unjust laws and structures of injustice.
1. How does the Seventh Commandment guide us to respect and care
for property that is not our own, that belongs to others, or that is
2. Why is it important to realize that you are more than an individual,
that you are a social being meant to be in solidarity with others?
What social justice issues have caught your attention recently? What
did you do about them?
3. What insights have you gained from reflecting on the U.S. bishops’
statement of themes related to Catholic social teaching? What are
some stories you could share about people you admire who have
helped you to acquire a social conscience?