Thou Shalt not Steal in the Kabad Kingdom
This last Sunday we tried to go beyond what we might call 'traditional stealing'. I'm kind of assuming that if you are coming to church on Sundays and you are operating as a 'Christian' in the world, you probably aren't stealing candy bars out of gas stations or robbing banks (and if you are, just stop it, stop it right now!). But then, as we started digging deeper, we realized together that there are lots of other ways to steal. Stealing joy or innocence or hope or dignity from the people around us surely breaks God's heart. We talked about stealing and we named the fact that not tithing was, in truth, the equivalent to stealing from God. We even went so far as to suggest that this tithing principle should extend not just to our treasure, but also to our time and talent - that we should be giving to God out of the time He has made available to us, and that we should be worshiping God and edifying the Church with the talents/spiritual gifts which God has graciously bestowed upon us. But all of these things bring us back to one of our main points from this past Sunday: it isn't enough to just barely avoid breaking one of these commandments. We want to pray and live out a phrase from Our Lord's prayer: 'lead us not only NOT into temptation, lead us in exactly the opposite direction. We even hear this in Paul's admonition in Ephesians 4:28: 'Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.' Don't just stop stealing - earn something and contribute. Be a part of the Kabad Kingdom, where the weak and the downtrodden are cared for, the hungry are fed, the lost are found, and the stealers become the givers! The Kabad Kingdom is an inside, outside, upside down Kingdom, a Bizarro world of sorts.
To further this point, let's listen to a couple of passages of scripture that point to the worldly nature of money, power, possession and exclusion:
Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, "When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat." (Amos 8:4-6)
Amos is point to the crooked practice of using weighted scales and tricking customers out of profits and taking advantage of the poor just to make a few more dollars. We hear much of the same from James:
Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. 2 Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. 4 Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you. (James 5:1-6)
We may not think that we have achieved our possessions by tricking or taking advantage of the poor, and we may even be able to delude ourselves into thinking that we ourselves are poor, but the fact is, if we have any excess at all, we are wealthier than most. Whining about a broken screen on our iPhone, wailing over a scratch on our new car, worrying about whether our neighbor's swimming pool is bigger than our - these are all first-world problems - they are NOT signs of poverty! Meanwhile, the rest of the world starves, and voices from our past call us into account for what we have and what we could offer:
Martin Luther - “If our goods are not available to the community, they are stolen goods.”
John Calvin - “what every man possesses has not come by mere chance but by the distribution of God and that to deprive another of his possession is to set aside God’s dispensation (gift).”
St. Basil the Great - “The bread that is spoiling in your house belongs to the hungry. The shoes that are mildewing under your bed belong to those who have none. The clothes stored away in your trunk belong to those who are naked. The money that depreciates in your treasury belongs to the poor!”
Remember, as we open ourselves to the needs of the world around us and as we strive to live a life of generosity in the Kabad Kingdom, that God has Blessed us so that WE can BE a blessing. (Genesis 12:3) Anything less, well, its just stealing.