Is stealing really stealing when you’re simply taking from somebody who can afford it?
No, your eyes are not deceiving you and the title above is not a misprint. April 15 has been designated “Steal Something from Work Day.” This is a day when millions of employees around the world will steal from their workplaces. It is a campaign to focus on the ways, means and causes of work-place theft.
Out of earshot of their employers, many working people admit that the campaign resonates with them. “If you took all the wealth of the US and divided it between the number of people who live there, it would come out to something like $150,000 each,” explains career wage-slave, Robin Bossis. “I come from a hardworking family, but none of us have ever seen that kind of money. That’s because we have to spend our lives working for corporations that keep most of the profi ts of our labour for themselves. The least an honest person can do is take back a little what he or she has earned!”
And stealing from employers is not the only issue. Apparently many feel it is okay to take items from their hotel room when they leave. Females appear to be the most light-fingered, with bathrobes, hair dryers, cushions and even toilet paper leaving with them. However, it was a couple who stayed at the Novotel in St Kilda, Melbourne, who are the most brazen of light-fingered hotel thieves. Although the staff were suspicious due to the large amount of luggage the couple were leaving with after only an overnight stay, they found that nothing was missing in the newly vacated room. But what a surprise when police later contacted the hotel after having pulled over the couple’s car and discovered a boot-load of booty monogrammed with the hotel logo. The couple had left their room intact, but raided the housekeeping store rooms and trolleys, stealing among other things, towels, linen, hundreds of tea and coffee sachets, stationery, boxes of amenities and a portable heater.
On another occasion, a woman was caught with more than two kilograms of fresh prawns she had stolen from the dinner buffet, in her handbag. When confronted, she said she was taking them for a late-night snack.
In his Christmas sermon for 2009, UK Anglican priest Tim Jones commented on the commandment “thou shalt not steal.” He advised parishioners that it was acceptable to shoplift if they were desperate—certainly better than burglary, mugging or prostitution—but they should target the “big stores” that could pass on these costs through higher prices.
The “Robin Hood” priest said this would not break the commandment because “God’s love for the poor and despised outweighs the property rights of the rich.” He went on to say that stealing was neither good nor harmless but sometimes was the best option.
Jones’ statements have not been enough for him to lose his licence, but he has been disowned by his church leaders and criticised by police and politicians. Jones is right to be concerned about the poor and less fortunate in our society. But it seems rather odd that he would advocate the breaking of a civil law and more disturbingly, the breaking of the moral law, a commandment of which expressly says, “Thou shalt not steal.” He is on a slippery path to be advocating a philosophy which says the end justifi es the means.
Fairfax newspaper, the Sun Herald, reported in January that students of Sydney’s elite residential colleges are running a secret computer network for sharing pornography and pirated movies and music. The students say that nearly every movie released in the last three years was made freely available, as well as episodes of popular US television shows like Gossip Girl that are yet to be aired in Australia. Authorities said the amount of alleged illegal sharing of movies could warrant a criminal investigation for breach of copyright laws.
Next month, director Ridley Scott’s version of Robin Hood is to be released, starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. The fear is that this may further water down people’s view that stealing is wrong.
Are morals simply a matter of an individual’s choice or are there great moral principles that apply to all people at all times?
Without a moral compass, society would be chaotic and barbarous. Morality is central to our existence. We need to be reminded of the basic rules of life today.
Shoplifting has become the most prevalent crime in the US, averaging 550,000 incidents a day, resulting in $US13 billion worth of goods stolen in a year. That is more than $US35 million in losses per day. Current estimates are that as high as one in 11 American residents shoplift.
And of great concern is that our honesty is being weakened and the integrity and character of malleable youth is at stake.
The conditions which we are confronted with today should not take the careful reader of the Bible by surprise. It was Jesus Christ who predicted that just before He returned, evil and such acts of lawlessness would increase greatly. He said, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). The weakening of faith will lead to further moral decline and in turn as in a chain reaction, will weaken faith even more.
The apostle Paul didn’t paint a much brighter picture when he said: “Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (2 Timothy 3:1–5).
Perhaps the “Steal Something from Work Day” highlights something very important: that we take the opportunity to remind our children and ourselves that the moral boundaries contained in the Ten Commandments were given by a loving God to protect our interests as well as the interests of our neighbours. Just like loving parents provide boundaries, so God has done the same for us. Maybe it would be a wise plan to read these Ten Commandments again (see Exodus 20:2–17). Could you imagine what type of a country ours would be if everybody decided to obey them?
Extract from Signs of the Times, April 2010.