Deuteronomy 5:19 – Living In a World Where Theft is Just A Part of Life

Posted: December 30, 2016 in 05-Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 5:19

You Shall Not Steal

According to statistics that are available from various sources around the internet, stealing is simply a part of American culture now. For example, an estimated 27 million people shoplift each year (that one out of every 11 Americans). Approximately $13 Billion worth of goods are stolen from retail stores in America each year. If you do the math, that $35.6 Million worth each day of the year. Even more surprising is that employee theft in America amounts to about $50 Billion each year in lost cash, products, wages and false injury claims. Approximately 1/3 of all business failures are caused by employee theft. Approximately 7% of the total expenses of an average American company is loss writeoffs due to employee theft. One in thirty retail employees in America are arrested at some point for theft. The average time employee theft is perpetrated before it is detected is two years. Thirty-seven percent of all employee theft/fraud is perpetrated by employees in manager level positions. Only 46% of theft and fraud is detected through internal controls and internal/external audits. A full 26% of all employee thefts/frauds are accidently discovered by other employees.


We live in a culture where theft is commonplace. Police rarely recover stolen property because theft is such a rampant problem that they simply cannot investigate every theft that occurs. Theft is so commonplace that we often do not report it when things are stolen from us. Theft is so commonplace that we would rather just file a claim on our insurance than ride the police on a daily basis to find our stolen property. We had a riding lawn mower stolen about a year and half ago and I have been lucky over the years to be able to say that this was the first time that I had a significant piece of property stolen from me.


It was one of those situations where you walk out into your garage and you don’t realize it at first but something just seems not right. So, you just kind of stand there looking around the garage trying to figure out what’s wrong. Then, it clicks in your brain. There’s something missing here that should be here. Then, you realize that it is your riding lawn mower. It is supposed to be right there but now it’s not. You go in the house and you know your wife would never be on that machine but you ask her anyway if she moved it. She laughs, says no, and asks why incredulously. Then, it sinks in. It’s been stolen right out from under your nose, probably while you were just feet away in your living room watching TV the night before. Now, it makes sense when you had to leave the house early the previous Sunday why the garage door was a quarter of the way open. You found that odd at the time. Usually, the garage door is a yes/no situation. It is either all the way open or it is shut. Even if you break the sensor beam that prevents it from shutting if somebody walks through the beam as it is shutting, the garage door will stop and retreat to the full open position. It has never been a quarter of the way open. It was weird but it really didn’t register that something was amiss. I just hit the clicker in my truck and closed it the rest of the way. It was not until the following Saturday when I was in the garage that I realized what had happened. The peculiarity of the garage door made sense now. Then, I got more and more pissed as I thought about it. We paid for that lawn mower with my hard earned money made at doing a honest day’s work for and honest day’s pay. Someone, with nothing better to do than suck off the tit of my hard work, comes along and just thinks it’s OK to steal my property. Burns me up to think about it now!


Identity theft is another thing where people with nothing better to do that get my goat too. These people, if they put all the effort that they put into stealing identity data would be so valuable to our economy. But no! They would rather suck off us who work for a living. Identity theft costs our economy $24.7 Billion annually. I bet each one of us reading this blog right now has had one or more of their credit cards’ card number compromised in the last 3 years. It is the fastest growing of the forms of theft in America.

How depressing is it to rattle off all these annual statistics on theft just in our country alone. Over $100 Billion in retail theft, employee theft/fraud, and identity theft alone each year. Every day theft is around us. We take it for granted now. It was these statistics that I thought of when I read today’s passage/verse, Deuteronomy 5:19 which reads as follows:


19 “You shall not steal.


How do we reconcile living in a world like this where billions and billions of dollars of other people’s property are stolen every year? How do we observe the commandment but yet live in a world where stealing is almost a given part of life? What can we take away from this commandment that we can apply to our daily lives?


I think first it is a command to live a life above reproach. When you have opportunities to steal, even when no one would be the wiser, that we honor God by not taking advantage of those situations. Those staples that belong to the company that are sitting on your desk at home need to be returned. Those post-it notes too. When there is a Coca-Cola sitting in the fridge in the breakroom for two weeks solid and nobody has claimed it, we leave it there. When we have opportunities to pad our expense report without anyone questioning it, we report what we actually spent. If you have a per meal limit on your expenses at work and one meal is $5.50 over the limit for that meal but the next meal you are $10.00 under the meal limit, you report the extra $5.50 as a personal expense even though at the next meal you were under the limit. We treat our jobs as if it were our own company. We treat our jobs as if we are working for God (because we are).


In our personal lives, when we are given too much change by a cashier, we go back and inform her or him that they gave us too much change. When a cashier does not ring up all our goods brought to the check out, we let her or him know that you missed this item. When we fill out our taxes, we report things as they actually happened rather than stretching the truth to the point that it loses its elasticity even if it costs us more in taxes or less of a refund. When we have a chance to steal a piece of gum, we don’t. May we present ourselves as people who are honest and transparent. May we bear good witness to the name of Jesus Christ.


That’s the ultimate takeaway from today’s commandment is that we are a reflection of Jesus Christ when we become His child. Sure, we are sinful people and we make mistakes. If we have inadvertently stolen, we fess up to it and make it right. At the same token, we must live our lives with the intention of being above board and beyond reproach in the way we conduct ourselves. We make sincere efforts to NOT have our character called into question. We want to hold Jesus’ banner high. We want to be different from the statistics. We want the world to say, why would you bring me back the $10 extra in change that I gave you by mistake. We want that to be a start of a conversation about how Jesus has made us different. Just like our kids are reflection of who we are as parents, we are a reflection of Jesus Christ when we are saved by His grace. What kind of Jesus do you want to portray to the world at large? What kind of Jesus are you actually portraying to the world? Will it bring honor to His name?


Amen and Amen.

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