The word STEAL has many meanings. The obvious one is to take something from another person which you have no right to. Over time it has been associated with thievery, identity theft, stealing a kiss, a base, a scene, an idea or something of value. We revered a thief named Robin Hood, because he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Even the stagecoach and bank robbers of the old west have been immortalized. The movies make it look easy. Our culture seems to accept it. Stealing can be motivated by need, greed or a desire to succeed.
When I was a child of seven, I pocketed an item in an antique store. I don’t recall what it was or why I stole it, but I managed to get outside of the store, walk home and make my way to my room without being caught. Somehow my father discovered the trinket and knew that I’d stolen it. He marched me back to the store and made me return the item and apologize for stealing it. I did.
That event played heavily on my conscience for a long time. How did I think I could get away with breaking God’s law? How could I bear the weight of being a thief? My apology was enough to get me off the hook, but I still carried the guilt. Every time I heard the Seventh Commandment I was convinced that I was condemned to a life in hell.
An incident like that may seem like a childish prank and a life lesson from my dad, but for many this could be the first step to a life of crime. I thought about my dad and the truth he was trying to give me and I wondered if he had ever stolen anything. After all, he grew up without a father. He was the responsible child, because he had suddenly become the head of the house. In the early 1900s, a woman raising four children by herself would find it more than difficult to provide for her family. Could desperation lead to stealing a loaf of bread?
In our world today, we hear evidence of corporate theft, where ideas are stolen from other companies to further their own success. There are those who steal written material from other writers and we call them plagiarists. There are those in the workplace who steal from their employers and we call them embezzlers. There are those who steal because they feel a certain rush by getting away with it. They justify their crime and continue doing it. We call them, addicted to crime.
As with all of our sins against God’s Commandments, this one is designed for us to lead a Godly life and treat others as we would want to be treated. We also fall short on every one of the laws of God. Being given too much change by a cashier and not saying anything – taking office supplies from the workplace and using them as your own – taking money out of your child’s piggy bank to pay a bill are all examples of stealing. Even the very thought of committing such a crime convicts us.
The lesson I learned from my dad that day, was to admit what I had done and ask for forgiveness. That’s what repentance and restoration are all about. Then, if we follow God’s will for our lives, with His help, we will be forgiven. Jesus bought us with His life. We owe Him so much. Knowing that He loves us unconditionally is reason enough to follow Him. He will return again soon to judge the world.
Thou shalt not steal.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not take our neighbor’s money or goods, nor get them by false ware or dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and business.
Luther’s Small Catechism