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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Don’t Steal

William Barclay writes:

“One of the rarest things in modern society is to carry out the Christian Ethic of absolute honesty in a society in which strict honesty has almost ceased to be a virtue.”⁠[1]

Some things are still wrong, even if our friends say, “it’s okay.”

My friends thought it was “cool.” I was eleven and wanted to be accepted by my friends. Entering the grocery store at 11th Street and Ainsworth in Tacoma, Washington, I looked over my shoulders to ensure no one was watching.

Casually, I took the Ice Cream Sandwich, put it in my coat pocket, and headed out the door. My friends were waiting. They had dared and encouraged me, assuring me they always did it.

“Young man!” The words stopped me in my tracks. It was the store manager. He marched me back into the store, asking me to remove my jacket. The melting Ice Cream Sandwich was quickly discovered.

The manager threatened to call the police. “Aren’t you Pastor Parrish’s son?” he asked. Dropping my head, I acknowledged I was. “All right: I’m going to call your mother.” “Call the police,” I pleaded. My mother was four feet, eleven inches. But you didn’t mess with Mom.

Mom was standing on the porch waiting for me. Dressed in her red coat, she grabbed my ear and marched me back to the store. “You will go to every customer and employee of this store and tell them you are a thief and ask them to forgive you for stealing what did not belong to you.” Mom’s statement was not a request.

Nor is the Eighth Commandment: “You shall not steal!” – Exodus 20:15.

Stealing is not limited to Ice Cream Sandwiches, burglary, or embezzlement. There are many ways in which we steal.

We can be guilty of the theft of time. One employer was giving a tour to a prospective investor in his company. He (the employer) was asked: How many people work for you in your business? He paused and replied: “I would say about half of them.”

We can be guilty of stealing innocence. We are stealing innocence when we invite others to participate in non-virtuous behavior (sin). Jesus reminds us:

“…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” - Matthew 18:6 (ESV).

We can be guilty of robbing God. Malachi reminds Israel: “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me.” How were they robbing God? By withholding their tithes and offerings. (Malachi 3:8-10).

I assure you, I’m not planning on stealing anything (ever again) from the grocery store. But I need to watch myself closely so that I will not assume theft is limited to taking one’s property.


[1] William Barclay, The Ten Commandments, (West Minster Press, 1998), pg. 165

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