Dethieving Ourselves

4 11 2008

Of all the clearly egregious sins that permeate society, theft never ceases to sadden me.

While I’m not a recent victim (unless you count taxes and street sweeping), I would vote for anyone who promised to heavily increase the severity of consequences for such actions.  Locke’s views on property are fairly in line with my own, and when I see friends and family lose things to theft, it angers me as much as anything really does.  Taking that which is not yours undercuts all that is fundamentally necessary to sustain society, yet thieves care nothing for this fact.  The temporary need to slake want overpowers any residual thoughts of conscience.

It strikes me now that perhaps it’s the valuing of the temporal above the eternal (the most universal aspect of sin, I think) that causes such a visceral reaction.

While my initial reaction should surely be (and sometimes is) more merciful and forgiving, this is much harder to do when my friends and family are affected as opposed to myself; perhaps it has something to do with the joy of forgiving those who have harmed you — Matthew 5, after all.

I suppose that a better reaction would be one of sadness for the state of the hearts of those who are driven to steal from their brothers, whether by greed or by perceived desperation.  Furthermore, it is a testament to the poor state of the church that people would sooner suffer (or risk suffering, in their minds) the spiritual and earthly consequences of theft.  That the church does not appear a viable option for those in need is as much its fault as it is the world’s. Perhaps this is also why I resent paying taxes to help the poor — the church can (and should!) use that money to much greater effect, simply because it is able to minister to more needs than any government check ever could.

Last year, when my friends’ room was burglarized, we all began talking about what we would like to say or do to those responsible if we were to catch them.  More than a few of us began talking about how undeserving our roommate was of suffering the loss of his valuables, and how good it would feel to reclaim the valuables while also meteing out justice upon the thief.  While our roommate was (for good reason) distraught at the catastrophe, he never seemed to approach our level of outrage.

A few days later, when his car was stolen, he began riding a bike to work a few miles away rather than ask for rides, despite our offers.  He rode to work in the rain rather than let someone skip a class to give him a ride.

It became apparent to me that he was able to withstand these things because of the restoration God promises to his children when we suffer.  Rather than worry (too much) about how he would continue to manage finances and a myriad of other issues that necessitated a computer, he did what he could and accepted the help of others when he needed it.

I hope I can find myself capable of viewing my own trials in such a way; furthermore, I hope that I can recognize when to be angry and when to be trust God when my friends and family suffer at the hands of sin.  We are not our own, much less our ipods or clothes or cars.  Losing those things not only allows us to practice the virtues of forgiveness and humility, but also to experience the love of others in the midst of our trials.

At the end of time, how infinitely more will these graces be relished by our souls than the sheen of our laptop!

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