Summary: Stealing really is only the province of children and slaves
Title: Only Children and Slaves
Text: Exodus 20:15; Parable of Good Samaritan
FCF: Why steal or strive to get God, when he wants to give you who he is for free?
I know when we get to the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ it’s easy to kick back and think, ‘I don’t need to really worry about this one.’ After all, I’m not a thief. I earn my living honestly. Oh sure, there may be those who rob banks, but I’m a respectable citizen. If you’re well versed in the news, you might even say – I’m not like those corporate embezzlers either. Well, I make my money the old fashioned way. I earn it.
I understand that, and honestly, I haven’t really indulged my latent kleptomania ever since my then 12 year old brother learned to lock his door and to share his cool books that he never read. I may overlook the occasional office supply on the cheap or illegal download, but when it comes to the traditional form of “stealing,” like you I think I can claim innocence.
But, our God is better than innocence, he’s about perfection. The command ‘No Stealing’ is simply a manifestation of something greater that our God has in store. And, if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to show you that this morning.
We are in that part of the covenant that is often like a photographic negative. Last week, we talked about adultery, and we saw how adultery is really just the opposite of God’s faithfulness. Before that, we talked about the commandment against killing, because our God is a God of undying hope. If you’ve ever read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, you know the kind of thinking I’m talking about – seeing a point in reverse. And, if you haven’t read The Screwtape Letters, well, it’s a good read.
Now, it will help if you can really hear this next sentence: There are only three ways to get anything in life. Either you take it, you earn it, or you are given it. Let me say that again - there are three options – you steal it, you work for it, or you receive something as a gift.
Everything we want or need is acquired in one of these three ways.
At the one end of the spectrum, you have the guy in the black outfit breaking and entering at 2 in the morning. Again, I doubt very many of us have engaged in such acts, and we may in fact think that it’s something that’s behind us as a society. I mean, who really defends stealing any more?
Even the atheist, the humanist, and the relativist will say stealing is wrong – but I’d encourage you to look out for their line of reasoning as to the why. They’ll tell you its okay to do anything you want, as long as you don’t harm anyone else. And, for them, stealing is a pretty obvious harm. I’m going to have more to say about that later, but suffice it to say this – it’s a pretty low view of how we’re supposed to love each other, isn’t it? After all, they’re contending, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Such sentiment is not solely our perspective either. In preparing for this sermon, I came across a set of commentaries from the mid 1800s called The Pulpit Commentary. Overall, it’s a pretty good commentary, but it had one sentence that just made me laugh:
“Simple direct stealing, being severely punished by the law in most countries, is seldom practised, unless it be by children and slaves.
You can just imagine some Victorian looking down his nose as he writes that, can’t you? Well, I liked that sentence so much, I titled this sermon after it, because, as dated as it sounds, I think it has some truth. Stealing is only practiced by children and slaves. Our God doesn’t want us to be either.
Now, your first reaction probably was to say, “What do you mean, stealing is seldom practiced today?” The IRS estimates that simple theft costs the United States more than $120 billion every year. When you add other types of stealing, plus the costs of incarceration, security, lost productivity while people are sitting in court prosecuting, at least one economist has suggested that the total cost is $1.1 trillion dollars every year. That’s half our federal budget.
But, I think the author may have been right in suggesting that stealing is the province of children. If you listen to NPR in the morning, they always have what I call the “funny story” right at half past the hour. Often, they’ll talk about some stupid robbery attempt that was foiled. One day this week it was the thief that wrote her hold up note on the back of a bulk mail envelope, addressed, of course, to her. Sure made catching her easy.