Summary: A sermon on the Eigth Commandment

Do not steal. Exodus 20:15

I remember the first thing I stole. I was in kindergarten and I just couldn’t resist taking home that little tiny set of plastic or metal gas pumps. I don’t know that I thought about it being wrong but I sure know it became wrong when my parents asked me where I got them. I remember going back to the school and having to confess to the teacher that I feared more than you will ever realize.

Burlington, Iowa police say Joseph Lamar Barrett, 34, held up a convenience store — just minutes after having used the same store’s automatic teller machine. The Hawk Eye of Burlington reports that Barrett, of Chicago, allegedly waved a knife at the clerk at the Kum & Go store just after midnight Tuesday, then ran off with a small amount of cash. Looking over the store’s surveillance tapes, police saw a man fitting Barrett’s description using the ATM twice just minutes before the holdup. Bank records confirmed it was indeed Barrett, and he was arrested at a friend’s house and allegedly confessed to the robbery. He faces 25 years in prison.

A would-be robber looked so goofy — well, Pluto, actually — that a convenience store clerk burst out laughing, foiling the attempted holdup. Cranberry, Pa., police Sgt. Dave Kovach told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the man walked into Gordon’s Mini Market Tuesday evening wearing a mask disguising himself as Pluto, Mickey Mouse’s long-eared, tongue-wagging dog. The cartoon canine walked up to the counter, pulled out a gun and demanded cash from the till. The clerk, alone in the store with the robber, took one look and broke into laughter." The frustrated Pluto robber then left the store," Kovach said. Another witness saw a white male, about 20 years old, get in a car and drive away. Kovach said that laughter isn’t usually the best crime deterrent. "I don’t want to give the impression that that’s an advisable thing to do," he told the newspaper. "Pluto could have been a strung-out heroin addict. You never know."

Many people have been touched by theft. And in all honesty it’s not very funny. Millions of dollars are lost every year in this country over the theft of goods and services. One estimate says that 1 out of every 52 shopper’s carries something out of the supermarket for which they haven’t paid. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 4 million people are caught shoplifting every year. But for every one caught, 35 others get away with it. This means that there are over 140 million incidents of shoplifting every year in America! What’s really tragic is that only 10% of all shoplifters come from low incomes. 70% are middle class and 20% are classified as wealthy.

These facts are astounding! America appears to be a country of thieves. I suppose that if everyone who was guilty of theft were arrested, there would be no jails to hold them, nor arresting officers to lock them up! One new hotel reported that in their 10 months of operation, they lost 38,000 spoon, 18,000 towels, 355 silver coffee pots, 1,500 silver finger bowls and 100 Bible to thieves.

This past week we have watched professional athletes testify before Congress about cheating by using illegal substances to enhance their performances. We also witnessed the conviction of Bernard Ebbers, former CEO of World Com who was convicted on all nine counts for helping mastermind an $11 billion accounting fraud at WorldCom, now known as MCI.

Ebbers, 63, had been charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of securities fraud and seven counts of filing false statements with securities regulators. He faces up to 85 years in prison, but sentencing guidelines are expected to result in a shorter term that legal experts say could nonetheless put Ebbers behind bars for the rest of his life.

Is stealing really worth it? This commandment is not unlike, do not murder. At first read we might be tempted to think that this does not touch us. Don’t check out on this one, I believe we all need to pause and think about this commandment.

There are two possibilities of need that play into breaking this commandment, especially for Americans:

A. We think we need things! This is at the heart of the billions of dollars spent on advertising. To create the need.

B. As Americans we feel that we deserve to have. We should have no matter how we get it.

This need is accompanied by a sense of entitlement. This drives us to be consumers. There is a need rooted need in people that also wants things to be given to them. Receiving with out paying.

We need to recognize God as our Provider and allow Him to give us what we need and even supply some wants.

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