Recent surveys have found that three out of ten prospective employees admit to having stolen from their previous employer!

  • 22 percent of workers feel that stealing from their company is “sometimes justified.”
  • 33 percent of employees surveyed confessed to falsely phoning in sick and collecting pay for days they pretended to be sick, but weren’t.
  • 35 percent of college students admitted that they would cheat on an exam if they were sure that they could get away with it.

A survey of a number of large organizations revealed that the average employee stole six weeks per year from his employer by consistently coming in late, leaving early, taking extended lunches, spending extra time on coffee breaks and neglecting his duties. All of this amounts to billions lost to the economy each year.

A recent survey of 500 products, chosen at random, revealed that approximately 50 percent of them contained less items in the packaging than advertised on the label. For example a bottle of 100 headache tablets actually contained 60!

Approximately one third of all business failures each year can be traced to employee theft. But such theft is so short-sighted, because when businesses close down, employees lose their jobs and families suffer.

Retailers report that they lose many billions each year to shoplifting, and even more to “shrinkage” – theft by employees.

What has caused this pandemic of larceny? Some would like to say that poverty causes theft, however some of the richest people in the world have been guilty of theft and many spoiled children from wealthy homes engage in shoplifting.

By way of contrast, there are many millions of poor people who never steal. Even during the Great Depression, when millions of families were destitute, the vast majority did not steal.

The Bible gives a very straightforward answer to this question in Ecclesiastes 8:11 “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

In the United States, it is no longer extraordinary in some shops to see prominent posters declaring: “Shoplifting is stealing!”

One would have thought that was rather obvious, but all too many people don’t seem to see anything wrong with blatant theft. Why? Because in our culture, theft is applauded.  Thieves, con-artists and perpetrators of fraud are heroes of movies and TV shows.

Stealing is a callous crime because the thief does not care about the effects of his crime upon his victim. The crooked landlord who charges excessive rent does not care about the hardship that he is causing his tenants. The corporation that sells a defective product doesn’t care what trouble his fraud may cause the buyer.

There are many imaginative excuses that people come up with to justify their theft:

“I’ve worked hard and I haven’t been fairly rewarded for my efforts.”

“I need it more than they do.”

“I can’t help myself.”

“They don’t appreciate it, I will.”

“It’s easier to steal something than to work for it.”

“I’m jealous of them and I think I deserve their possessions more than they do!”

To all of this God responds with four words: “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)

George Oesche had worked in South Africa’s diamond mines. Over the years, he had succeeded in stealing a large number of those valuable gems. As a result, he had a very nice house and comfortable lifestyle.

But then when he was became a Christian, he learned about the importance of restitution.  He confessed his crimes to the authorities.

Although he had not been caught and no longer worked for the mines, he began the painful process of repaying everything he had stolen.  This involved a lot of sacrifice. The Lord has mightily blessed him as a result.

“Fools mock at making amends for sin, but among the upright there is favour” (Proverbs 14:9).

As a Christian, he was convicted in his heart that he had to pay back all the money. What a tremendous testimony to the power of the Gospel!

“If the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen … none of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live” (Ezekiel 33:15-16).

In such cases, the Bible decrees restitution – the restoration of stolen good to their rightful owner. Restitution is also required for negligence – if you have deprived somebody through your carelessness.

“… he should make full restitution; …if the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double. If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man’s field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution. If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution” (Exodus 22:3-6).

God’s law is clear!

The criminal is held accountable. He is responsible to pay for his crime. He is to work and earn, in money or kind, that which is required for the reparation of what he stole, damaged or destroyed.

Zacchaeus is an example in the Scriptures of someone who made restitution. “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:8-9).

Forgiveness of sin is God’s wonderful gift to us when we repent of our wrong. However, God’s forgiveness seldom impresses human judges. Telling the IRS auditor that God has forgiven you for your tax evasion will not lessen your tax bill. Assuring the traffic cop that the Lord has forgiven you for your sin of reckless driving and speeding will not keep you from getting a ticket.

God’s wonderful grace does not eliminate the need for restitution. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not die on the Cross in order to allow us to steal other peoples property and get away with it.

The prophet Malachi wrote that when people don’t bring their full tithes and offerings to God they are stealing directly from God.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of Heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:8-10).

So, what should we do? The word of the Lord is clear: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give Him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).

Even if our culture says stealing is OK!

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