"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves…” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The word translated “thieves” here is the source of our English term “kleptomaniac.” It means a robber, also an embezzler or pilferer; in other words, one who steals. We have a notable example in the Bible of a person who was a thief.
“Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:1-6).
God has always condemned thievery or stealing. In the Old Testament, one of the Ten Commandments given by God to Israel at Mt. Sinai through Moses was, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). There are many different ways to steal, including burglary, committing fraud, shoplifting, purloining from an employer, pilfering, and embezzling. Falsifying income tax forms is stealing from the civil government. When I was a young boy still in school, I distinctly remember a sermon during a gospel meeting in which the visiting preacher made the point that cheating on a test by looking on another person’s paper was stealing answers.
God’s attitude towards stealing may be determined from the punishment for it that He gave to Israel. “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep. If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double” (Exodus 22:1-4). Today, thieves are put in prison and must pay fines to the government. However, one wonders if all guilty thieves were made to make full restitution plus double, quadruple, or even fivefold, and keep working at it until they do, how much less stealing might go on.
What does the New Testament say? “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). To be a Christian and please God, one must not only refrain from stealing but also replace the wrong activity with a righteous one, honest labor and a spirit of giving rather than taking. “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters” (1 Peter 4:15). Why is it important not to suffer as a thief? It is because thieves will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By Wayne S. Walker
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