“You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15
I haven’t done much stealing in my lifetime and, praise God, I haven’t had much stolen either.
There was, however, that time at the beginning of my freshman year in college. It was noon and I was coming into the cafeteria, my briefcase loaded with my new Bible and a few other textbooks. I, like several dozen other students, chose to leave my books in the coat room at the base of the stairs going up to the cafeteria.
Some of you are shaking your head and wondering how I could be so naive or stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I just kind of thought that since I wouldn’t want to take someone else’s textbooks, I didn’t really want the ones I already had, no one would want to take mine.
Well, I learned that day that there were those that did want to take my briefcase and textbooks. Their act of thievery resulted also in my being parted with more than a hundred more dollars as I was compelled to purchase a new briefcase, a new Bible, and at least two textbooks. I also lost several hours of time as I trekked across campus to make the purchases and then tracked down other students so that I could replace the class notes that had been lost with my stolen property.
After that day I’ve never really trusted people with stuff I can’t afford to lose again. The rest of my years as a student I kept my book bag close, even during my years in the theological seminary. Being on guard from thieves has become a habit.
Perhaps the most significant thing I lost that day was my ability to simply trust people.
It’s true that I don’t spend a lot of time, or energy, on not trusting people, I know some people that do, but I’m selective about what I allow to be placed at risk of being stolen and I’m not surprised or disillusioned when something does disappear.
Why the selective vigilance and practiced nonchalance? Because I don’t trust people.
What a tremendous gift it is to be able to trust people. It sets you free when you know that people will respect you and your property.
We don’t often think about how confining distrust can be but often there are no restrictions and limitations more effective than the voluntary ones we put in place because of our inability to trust one another.
God created us to be free and Jesus came to set us free. We’ll never be completely free until we’re set free from this sin filled world. Until then God commands those that have chosen him as their king, and his kingdom as their own, to not steal. If we’ll obey we can at least have the liberty of a community we can trust.