It seems such a childish behaviour or it seems like this is too foundational, too obvious for the Apostle to mention. Irrelevant because it has nothing to do with us.
But he brings his list, a total of 50 commands in the context of putting off the old nature and putting on. But this is not just a list to remember rather Paul is teaching a new way of life. So for example as we have already seen Paul says, “Regarding anger, don’t let it lead to sin, don’t stay angry and don’t give the devil an opportunity to exploit that anger.” The Apostle does the same with stealing: “don’t do it but rather work so that you can give.” Let’s look at this over the next couple of days …
“Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer” Ephesians 4:28
- Some people seem to steal for fun
I remember a family friend, an ‘uncle’ who wasn’t an uncle. His name was Jock. A lovely man he was. There are 3 things I remember as a child. He was really happy, he loved smoking pipes and I loved the smell of them, he seemed to have hundreds of pipes hanging on the walls of his home and a third memory came about after he died. In his wardrobes and drawers of his home were unopened goods from every shop you could think of. Also price tickets of goods stuck on the wardrobe doors. These unopened products clearly he didn’t need or want, he just did it for fun.
Some people view stealing as a game against the establishment. If they can dodge the tax, borrow something without returning it, get something on false pretences then they have got their trophy. They have beaten the odds and won the game.
- Some people seem to steal out of desperation.
The word in this verse is Klepteto where we get the word Kleptomaniac from. I don’t think my ‘uncle’ had this problem because most kleptomaniacs are depressed, struggling from the burden of this mental health condition. He was far too happy.
But there is a lot of desperation in our world. Some steal because they have to eat or their children need to eat. I’ve been in some of the poorest nations of the world where this is so. It is indeed desperate. But the problem is all over the world.
A few days ago in The Independent newspaper an article revealed a desperate but beautiful story.
“Three New York City Police Department officers have been praised after they paid for a woman’s groceries when she was caught attempting to steal the goods.
The moment at a Manhattan Whole Foods was captured by a fellow shopper, who snapped a photo and posted it on Twitter.
The image shows the woman burying her head in her hands, while the three officers stand around her at the cash register, paying for the food.
“I know that the police make split second decisions each day, so for the police to pay for the woman’s food without hesitation was powerful,” Paul Bozymowski, the individual who took the photo, told The Independent. “It was incredibly moving to see such a genuinely kind moment.”
The officers have since been identified as lieutenant Louis Sojo, and officers Esnaidy Cuevas and Michael Rivera, who said during a press conference that officers all around the city act in this way frequently – but that these actions are rarely seen.
During that press conference on Friday they said they were heading into the store to when they were told by security guards that the woman was stealing food.
“I asked her, ‘What’s going on?’ She told me she was hungry,” Mr Sojo said. “So, I looked in her bag. I decided – we decided – to say ‘We’ll pay for her food’.”
He added that they were not expecting the reaction they received.
“You know, I’ve been doing this for 22 years. This is not the first time I’ve paid for food. This is not the first time they’ve paid for someone’s food,” Mr Sojo said. “We don’t go out and do it all the time, but, you know, when you look at someone’s face and you notice that they need you, and they’re actually hungry. It’s pretty difficult as a human being to walk away from something like that. We weren’t raised like that. So, it’s the right thing to do.”
“When I posted the photo, I certainly didn’t think it would get this amount of attention. I’m happy it is,” he said. “If the story can inspire others to be generous and kind, then that’s good for all of us.”
- Some people seem to steal because they have a heart issue.
Jesus said stealing comes out of the heart (Matthew 15:19).
In Judges 18 (in those days when Israel did not have a king) the Danites enter into the home of a young Levite. The tribe have low morals and yet decide they want to worship. But in order to worship they enter Micah’s house and steal his gods. It is like deciding that you really want to worship God with a musical instrument so you steal someone’s guitar to do it. You may have the right motive and attitude but go and do the most stupid of things and then feel justified.
A motive is not always more important than the action. A theft doesn’t seem wrong when it is done for the right reasons. It is a heart issue.
Sometimes possession seems more important than working for it or to have a clear conscience. We can justify almost anything.
But stealing stops you from the joy of working and giving of which the Apostle will explain.