Summary: Could it be we’ve bought into the cultural lie that says sometimes taking things from others isn’t stealing?

What If They’re Wrong Series Exodus 20:15 “It’s Really Mine”

• Once a man wanted to rob a downtown Bank of America. He walked into the branch and, on a deposit slip, wrote "this iz a stikkup. put all your muny in this bag." While he was in line waiting to give the note to the teller, he started to worry that someone had seen him write the note and might call police before he reached the window. So, he left the Bank of America and went across the street to a Wells Fargo bank. After waiting few minutes in line there, he handed the note to the Wells Fargo teller. She read it and surmised from his spelling errors that he was not the brightest light in the harbor. She said, "I’m sorry, sir. I can’t accept your stickup note because it’s written on a Bank of America deposit slip. You’ll need to fill out a Wells Fargo deposit slip or you can go back to the Bank of America." Looking somewhat defeated, the man said, "OK," and left. The Wells Fargo teller then called the police, who arrested the would-be bank robber a few minutes later as he was waiting in line back at the Bank of America.

We’ve probably all heard stories like this about dumb criminals.

• I like the one about a guy who was holding up a convenience store wearing his motorcycle helmet as a disguise. The only problem was that his name was written in big, bold letters across the front of the helmet. Police tracked this genius down very quickly.

Stories like these are always good for a laugh.

But they’re not so funny when someone actually steals from us.

Most, if not all of us, have had things taken from us.

I remember living in government housing in Illinois and walking outside one day to find that both of my older boy’s bicycles had been stolen.

If I had to describe my feelings that day I could sum them up in one word - violated.

It’s not so much the value of what was stolen.

It’s the principle that someone came into my yard and stole something that didn’t belong to them.

After all, everyone knows this commandment by heart: "You shall not steal."

But maybe we don’t apply this commandment to ourselves as strictly as we do to everyone else.

Could it be we’ve bought into the cultural lie that says sometimes taking things from others isn’t stealing?

For example, if I loan you my shovel and you never give it back, you’ve stolen that shovel.

Our culture says that if you intend to give it back it’s not stealing, even if you never give it back.

What about tax time?

How many people steal from the government year after year, simply because they think the government "owes" them?

You know how people cheat on their taxes - a little extra donation to the Salvation Army; some extra income not reported.

What about frivolous lawsuits and insurance claims?

And what about stealing from our employers?

We just can’t talk about the command not to steal without talking about stealing from employers.

A pen here; a paper clip there.

Some extra time for lunch or a little longer break.

It all adds up.

But, we don’t steal, we just borrow.

If no one notices that something’s gone, then it cannot really be stolen.

If you don’t get caught, then there’s no harm done."

You see, most people I know would never, ever consider actually going into someone’s house and taking their possessions.

That’s stealing!

Most of us have stolen at one time or another; in one way or another.

We might not think of it as stealing, but it is stealing none-the-less.

And we don’t always think about how we violate others when we steal.

When a person cheats on his taxes, who pays?

When a person files a frivolous lawsuit or insurance claim, who picks up the tab?

And when you steal from that big company that employs you, who gets to enjoy those higher prices the company has to charge to cover its losses?

When people indulge in this type of stealing they aren’t just stealing from the government or the insurance company or that big company, they are stealing from everybody - you, and me, and the countless other innocent people who don’t steal that way.

You see, companies will make profits one way or another.

If someone steals their product, then the price of that product goes up for everyone else.

If too many people shoplift from Wal-Mart, they’ll raise their prices.

That’s the way the real world works.

If I defraud my insurance company, then your premiums go up as well as mine.

This idea that one can steal from a corporate entity, and not real people, is a lie - it is still stealing.

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