The cool part was how we wrestled this out in community.
The bummer part was I forgot to ask a very important question.
Rather than me tell people on my own what this Bible verse meant, we let the Word of God guide our community. Starting simple, we asked the question if (according to this passage) taking a piece of candy from a store was wrong. Everyone agreed, bonding over how most of us have at some point been scolded for that by our parents. Here were the reasons:
- It costs something you didn't spend.
- Without paying it requires another's permission who spent the original money on it.
- It doesn't belong to you.
Agreed? If so, good. If not, why not? (Really, consider "why" you think "what" you think)
On that note, we wrestled over the following possible things that could be considered stealing - what is your spin?
- Grabbing more than one sample when the sign says only one sample
- Siphoning gas from someone’s vehicle without their permission
- Using a neighbor's wireless internet signal
- Using someone else's idea without credit (i.e. intellectual property)
- Not returning a book from the library
- Taking home a ream of paper from work and using it for other things
- Going one minute past your allotted break time
- Standing by the clock and waiting to punch out until it clicks one more time
- Using your neighbor's basketball net w/o permission when they're on vacation
- Sneaking food from a fast food or restaurant person you know who works there
- Copying or downloading music you haven't paid for and keeping it
- Eating a fry off someone else's plate when they go to get ketchup
- Sneaking into a movie theater to see something you haven’t paid for
- Stealing signals from an opposing Little League team
- When a web site you visit puts a little program on your computer that steals your surfing information
- Not tipping a waitress well (as a side question - if you work hourly or by salary and have a down day, should they pay you less?)
- Writing down the wrong amount on your taxes on purpose
- Using your expense account for non expenses
- Helping yourself to change out of a cash register
- Getting to the car and you realize they didn't charge you for something and not going back
- Taking someone's purse or the stuff in it
- Selling a car and not disclosing what's wrong with it so you can get more money than what it's worth
- Buying a song on iTunes, then giving a copy to a friend
- Buying a pirated movie
- When you say your child is younger than he really is to get a cheaper price
- Patting your pockets when the bill comes as if you forgot your wallet to get out of contributing
- Being creatively less than truthful on your tax return
- Spending work time making personal calls or checking your personal email (Side note: This is called time theft and it costs American employers about $70 billion a year)
- Taking a pen home from work
- Not correcting a waiter/waitress when they forget to charge you for something
- Letting a friend use your personal employee discount
- Bringing a used cup back to a restaurant to get a free refill
How easy was that list? Did you wrestle with any of those?
Personally, I found I've committed about 95% of them at some point in my life.
"But everybody does it."
Here were a few of the trickier ones:
- Exposing a child to something in a movie/TV show they "can handle," but probably shouldn't "handle."
Matthew 18:5: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
- Taking food to feed your family when you can’t buy it.
Proverbs 6:30-31: Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
- Bad mouthing the reputation of somewhere you work or once worked (or perhaps a church you once attended)
Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
- Not tithing.
Malachi 3:8-12: Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours
will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.
Now... I feel faithful about what I shared on Sunday, but if I could go back and add one more thing, here's the question of challenge I would ask.
All of your answers? Don't look so much at what you decided, but rather ask yourself why you decided them.
In other words, what in you does not want to call any or all of those items stealing?
Because I think if you can let God help you figure that out, you're several leaps away from feeding a destructive beast called "entitlement" in your life and one step closer to becoming an empathetic, generous Christ-follower.
but why we choose to think it...
and the voluntary blindfold we can wear.
Do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:27-28)