You who preach against stealing, do you steal?
Thoughts for Today:I was on a plane returning from a grueling twelve day overseas trip. Just before landing the flight attendant passed out the Customs Declaration Form for us all to fill out. I had been on this particular flight for the last seventeen hours -- the final leg after two days of travel from Nepal to Los Angeles and home. To say I was in a hurry to see my wife, daughter, and the comfort of my own bed is an understatement. I looked at that Declaration form for a full five minutes -- I envisioned the long lines waiting for me if I answered the questions truthfully. Endless bureaucratic delays. I fantasized about lying on the form, then sending in a letter from home including a check in the amount of the duty I owed -- apologizing for my oversight. What harm could there be? I intended to pay the duty -- right? I was just making paying the duty a little more convenient.
Then reality kicked in, I filled out the form correctly, and when I got off the plane -- I took my place in the appropriate line. Surprisingly the line moved quickly. When it was my turn the Custom's Officer asked me: "Do you really want to declare this much?" I answered: "Yes, it's what I bought -- I have a big family." He asked: "Is all this from Nepal -- not Bangkok (I had a stopover in Bangkok)?" "No," I answered. "Well you're in luck, because no duty is due from Nepal. You are free to go." I stood there in shocked silence -- it taken all of two minutes -- start to finish, yet I had agonized on the plane for over an hour about how long I would be delayed.
It is always interesting to me how we can so easily rationalize our decisions to steal. Yes, that's right -- not paying duty is stealing -- just like so many other things we do or are tempted to do. I have seen normally good, ethical, Christian men and women who think nothing of taking something which doesn't belong to them. A pen from a restaurant, office supplies from work, pirated copies of a new movies, hotel towels, unauthorized music downloads, etc. Small thefts but stealing none-the-less. In our passage today Paul asks, "You who preach against stealing, do you steal?" I think that's a good question for us all to answer.
Questions to Ponder:What do you consider stealing? Many times I hear people rationalize thefts: "They can afford it," or "They expect you to take stuff -- it's included in the price." Stealing is stealing whether it's a home break-in, theft of an auto, or packing a hotel towel in your suitcase. Where do you think God draws the line on acceptable thefts? Or is a theft a theft, no matter how minor the cost or who it belongs to?