Musings on the Subject of Theft

I think most people will grant that theft is wrong. If I steal from another, if I rob a store, or my next door neighbor down the street, then the average person will quickly point out that such activity is wrong, shouldn’t be done, and ought to be punished when brought to light. Theft, for the majority of persons on this planet is morally reprehensible.

Situational Ethics…

But what about the situation where the theft occurs? Are there factors that may have a positive or negative effect on the action of the individual or group? In other words, does the circumstance surrounding the situation where theft occurs make it an act of goodness in some cases, but one of evil in others? Can theft be morally acceptable given the proper context?

One way that theft is made to look appealing is through the following popular argument. The argument falls under the subcategory of situational ethics. “What if a man stole a loaf of bread to feed his family?” A similar argument was used this summer to justify the looting during some of our domestic terrorist groups rioting—ur um…peaceful protests! The discussion by some at the political level regarding reparations would also fall into this niche.

In Light of a Biblical Worldview…

During a family home Bible study, our children asked a plethora of questions pertaining to current events and just life in general. At one point one of my teenage boys tried to stump me, but when I cited a text of Scripture that spoke on the issue he had raised, he said somewhat jokingly, “Oh my…I guess the Bible has an answer for everything!”

Yes, the Bible does. It wouldn’t be much of a book at all if it failed to give a full-orbed world and life view. If the Christian faith, which is based upon biblical revelation, were not an all encompassing, every aspect of life is to be weighed by it, type of faith, then it wouldn’t be much of a faith at all. But all of Scripture is God-breathed, and therefore useful (and necessary) for interpreting, knowing, and correcting all of life so that each person who is called of God might be fully equipped to live as a proper image bearer in this world.

Returning the Situational Argument

And so, we return back to the question of theft. Most know and acknowledge that theft is wrong; especially, when they are the one being robbed. But for some, a way is sought around this truth by pulling out of their hat an appeal to pity. The argument of the loaf stealing innocent tries to impress the listener with the idea that we ought to have pity on them. That this “gray” area should remove from it the penalty required for such criminal activity. But what does the Word of God say on this issue?

Insight from the Book of Proverbs:

Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry; but when he is found, he must repay sevenfold; He must give all the substance of his house” (Prov 6.30-31; NASB).

This little text is crouched in the middle of a warning against adultery. To sleep with another’s spouse is to commit an act of theft. She is not your bride and so, my son, you would do well to guard your steps by the light of God’s Law (Prov 6.23), rather than walk along a path destined for doom (Prov 6.27-29).

The idea in verses 30-31 is to point out that though stealing of all sorts is wrong, as people, we have a little more understanding when someone does it out of a perceived need. A jealous husband, though, the father warns, will not be so lenient (Prov 6.34). He will repay (Prov 6.35).

Offering a Contrast…

This set of verses (30-31) offers a contrast between the opinions of men on a given situation. What they do not teach is that it is okay to steal, if you are stealing to satisfy your grumbling belly or if you are doing it for a loved one. Better to beg, to beseech or to work on an empty belly in the hope of wages in order to purchase your own food, than to steal. For if the thief is caught, he is still held accountable to the law of God. An objective standard still exists and it does so for good reason.

A quick glimpse at the meaning…

The meaning of “sevenfold” or “the substance of his house” means to convey the perfect penalty under the law. The crime will be met with a complete sentence of retribution. The thief will have to pay back at least two-fold what was taken as the law requires (Exod 22.4, 7, 9). And if he is unable to do that because he is truly poor, then he will have to sell himself into servitude in order to pay off the debt that is owed for stealing from his neighbor (Exod 22.3).

Current cultural insights weighed…

Our current culture believes that all sorts of theft is not only allowable, but also justified. Looting during “peace protests” is one such example. Our current attitude towards taxing the rich is another. Forcing generations far removed from the sins of the past to pay reparations for how one sector of our society was mistreated is another. All are different forms of the same thing: theft. Not one is justified. Not one is good. And not one should be held in high esteem. They should all be vilified, shouted down, and firmly stood against. The situation or the circumstance does not legitimize these criminal acts.

And being an election year…who you vote for will determine whether or not such things are not only propagated but enforced. Therefore, say NO to the party of the Donkey. Say NO to Biden and Harris.