When I was a seminary student in Atlanta, Ga., my wife and I were at home one Saturday afternoon. Being a Saturday, there weren’t many people on campus (we lived in married student housing). We were just sitting around our apartment when we heard our car trying to start outside. This was strange.
I ran outside to find four or five young teens inside it trying to hotwire it. They saw me, immediately jumped out, and ran away. I was so stunned I didn’t do anything for a minute except watch them. My wife called the police and we filled out a report. The officer said he would go look for these kids and let us know what he found. We never saw him, or the teens, again. He was probably overwhelmed with calls and emergencies so he’s not to blame.
It was so maddening to think someone wanted to take something so brazenly.
Theft is common but it was made very personal that day for us.
The eighth of the Ten Commandments tells us not to steal. Stealing hurts everybody. Even the supposedly “victimless” crime of shoplifting hurts because we all pay for it. Retailers have to increase the price of their goods by billions of dollars every year to cover loses by those who take what is not theirs. We pay for their petty theft every time we go to the store. It also costs us because it ties up the police as well. God, in His wisdom, tells us not to take what is not ours.
He offers us an alternative. He encourages us to be generous; giving what ours rather than taking what is not. God desires that we work so that we can be generous with those who are in need. He wants us to be responsible so that we can assist others who are not able to care for themselves as they should.
This is a tremendous benefit to us. Jesus said, “It is better to give than to receive.” He said these words because generosity helps those who are in need but also because it helps those who give as well. It feels good to be generous. Money makes life easier for us but it cannot make life happier. Having a generous heart flowing from our gratitude toward God gives us peace. When we give up trying to find the next big thrill to make us happy and, instead, give to someone who can benefit from our excess, peace finds us as does contentment.
God understands us very well and He wants us to be happy. To do so our hearts must become open and giving rather than closed and self-serving. This week, try giving something away and see what Jesus meant.
Rob Morton is minister of First Christian Church Middlesboro. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.