You shall not steal. Exodus chapter 20, verse 15.
When I was a young teen, my bike was stolen. I grew up in a family where stealing was considered to be just plain wrong, so when it happened to me, I was extremely upset. I felt hurt, violated, unsafe, and angry. I had worked hard to save for the bike, and had only had for a few months. Granted, it was just a bicycle; it could be replaced. But I hadn’t done anything to merit the theft and still some neighborhood kids took it. When police found the bike, the thieves had taken it apart. I got it back the next day, but it wasn’t the same. I tried to fix it but it wasn’t the same.
Now, I’ll admit: my example is sort of over-blown. Like I said: it was just a bicycle; hardly the end of the world. But it was the first time something like this had ever happened to me and, given that I was struggling with bullying in school and having a rough time of things, it was a small trauma. I trusted and the trust was broken.
Isn’t that what happens when someone steals from us? Perhaps we should get on God’s level and understand why He forbade stealing in the first place. The thing is, stealing is more than just kids swiping a bicycle. It’s more, even, than armed robbers knocking over a Brinks truck or devious CEOs swindling their shareholders. It’s not just criminals who take things.
Taken office supplies lately? It’s stealing. Ever lifted a piece of candy from a bin at the store? Stealing. Ever padded your expense report, or taken extra deductions on your taxes, or borrowed something from your neighbor and not returned it even after you remembered you had it? Lifted money from your parents? You know the answer.
There’s more. Stealing, theft, robbery, larceny: they start in the heart. In truth, doesn’t all sin start in our hearts? That’s what makes it so insidious…and so offensive to Jesus. When we take credit without giving God His due, we’re stealing His glory. When we decide how to use the truth to our advantage while being unfair in some way, we’re stealing God’s intended honesty. When we lie, we are stealing the truth from others. It’s destructive. Like those lies, nothing good comes from it.
What happened to the kids who stole the bike? I really don’t know. I didn’t press charges; I got the bike back but, like I said, it wasn’t the same. A year later, I donated it to Goodwill. Yet I’ve never forgotten how hurt I felt to realize something I valued, had worked hard for, was taken from me. Years later, I now understand that’s how Jesus feels every time we steal in any way.
Lord, forgive me for the times I have stolen in any way, from You or others.
Read Exodus chapter 6, God and Moses.