19th February 2019

To Set a Thief

“You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another…You shall not cheat your neighbour, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning.”
Leviticus 19:11, 13 (NKJV UK)

Did you notice that the authorities at Magdalene College, Oxford University, have warned their students who attend their ‘in hall’ feasts, to stop nicking the silverware, or these dinners will cease, and, indeed, to return what has already been stolen? Apparently it extends beyond the occasional teaspoon memento, including priceless crystal decanters with silver collars and stoppers, and even an antique table that went missing—though how you slip that under your jacket is beyond me.

Now, what bothers me is not the thievery itself, reprehensible as that is, but that here we have the supposed cream of young men and women who will form the leaders of our society tomorrow. It would seem that they are following closely in the footsteps of their forebears, who today form the corrupt politicians, bankers and other high-salaried officials who have been caught with their hands in the till or cooking their expense accounts, a growing class of peoples who haven’t come through recent years unscathed in the nicking-stakes. Were they not taught as children that stealing is not what we do? Weren’t the ruling classes always led to believe that they set the moral standard for the nation? Well, such standards, it would seem, are not taught nor the example set at Oxford. Everyone does it. They can afford it. It doesn’t hurt anyone.

Thieves are often glamorised. Somehow they got one over on the system, or triumphed when really they shouldn’t. One Cold War legacy is of border patrols monitoring a crossing. They knew contraband was somehow being smuggled across, but they couldn’t find out how or what. Years later one ex-guard asked their chief suspect how he had done it. “Well,” he finally confided, “I was smuggling wheelbarrows, and you never stopped me when I returned without one.”

For the Christian such arguments should cut no ice. There is no justification for stealing; it’s a no-no, one of those eternal Judaeo-Christian rules: Thou shalt not steal. The golden rule for the Christian goes further—to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves, because we wouldn’t want anyone to steal from us, would we? Actually Jesus upped the ante regarding that Golden Rule. He changed it to: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). And Jesus loved us then and now with a divine love. So as the world crashes all about us, and the graduates from Oxford apparently leave with firsts in “antique repositioning,” we are to major in following Christ’s golden rule.

Merciful Father, like it or not, society and what it does, does have influence in our lives. But now, as Christians, we belong to you. Help us to influence society, rather than to be influenced, to set the standard rather than to follow it. And this we pray in Jesus’ name.

Study by John Stettaford

About the Author:
John Stettaford is an Elder in the Reading Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Reading
Prospect School, Room A1 (Main Building)
Honey End Lane
RG30 4EL

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11am

Local Congregational Contact:
John Stettaford
Phone: 01923-241426
Email: pastor@wcg-reading.org.uk

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