What Would Jesus Steal?

THAT’S THE QUESTION being asked by Ben Myers after reports “from a reliable source” — but dismissed by one of his commenters as urban myth — of thefts of WWJD bracelets from “one of Australia’s big Christian bookstore chains”.

It’s a good question: what would Jesus steal? A few lost souls from under the nose of a sleeping monster? A lamb, and come out with a lion? I suspect he wouldn’t have too many qualms about robbing a bank these days when the banks have been stealing so much from the rest of us. For sure he’d steal life in the face of death and wouldn’t be ashamed of the scars… and watch out: he might just steal your heart; I know he’s stolen mine.

The sad fact is that no matter how many of our customers are exemplary citizens, there are wolves among the sheep. You have to love this story from mndt on reddit:

Me: “That will be 17.50, please.”
Customer: “Are you a Christian, dear?”
Me: “Why do you ask?”
Customer: “Are you?”
Me: “Well, no. Why do you want to know?”
Customer: “Oh. I would like to be helped by someone else, please.”
Manager: “Good morning ma’am, I hear you’ve been having a problem with the clerk?”
Customer: “Oh, she didn’t make any trouble, it’s just that I don’t want my money to be handled by someone not of the faith. You should be careful, she’ll probably nick from the till when you’re not looking.”
Manager: “You’re right, ma’am, I shall definitely have to reprimand her.”
Me: surprised “What for?”
Manager: “For failing to notice that the lady was not planning on paying for the three Mars bars and the map of Europe she must have put in her bag while you were fetching me.”
(The customer freezes for a second, then looks at her bag.)
Customer: “Good heavens! I must’ve been so distracted I didn’t even notice the devil putting them there!”

Undoubtedly urban myth again, but it does raise the question of security awareness. At LST we only ever had one theft that I could be sure of: a customer brought the IVP Essential Reference Collection CD to the till. I noticed that the tape seal had been cut and sure enough, the CD was missing. We never did find the culprit, who might even now be serving as a church leader somewhere. From then on, that box became a display pack and the actual packs were kept in a secure location.

Other things went missing, of course, but we could never be certain whether or not it was a database error, item misplaced in the shop, goods-in processing error or theft; and even when the annual stock take came around, there was never time to analyse the data to work out where things had gone or mysteriously appeared from. The net difference was usually a few hundred pounds, not in our favour — relative peanuts on a year’s trading, certainly not enough to warrant investing in a hi-tech security system.

But as I thought about the question, What would Jesus steal? I wondered: who would Jesus prosecute? Would Jesus prosecute? Or would he invite the thief to come follow him — to work in the shop with him — to be a key holder, perhaps even appoint the thief as company treasurer? It’s a surefire path to disaster, of course, but Jesus did it, and accepted the consequences.

I wonder how many of us, when push comes to shove, are really up for following Jesus, the man who said, if someone takes your coat, give them your shirt as well? That’s Luke’s version; Matthew’s is different: if someone sues you for your coat, surrender your shirt too. Why does Matthew’s Jesus seem to assume that his followers will be sued?

What’s your shop’s policy on theft, whether it’s theft by staff or by shoplifters? What about security systems and staff training or awareness? Is theft inevitable? Should we as Christian retailers adopt a different way to the world? Or is this an area where we’re all in business together, Christian or otherwise?

What about delaying payments to your suppliers because your bank balance is jittery — is that theft? Or taking refuge behind bankruptcy laws to evade your creditors? Do we have a duty to uphold a legal system that protects corporate thieves but prosecutes private citizens or should we be seeking to overturn it as Jesus once turned over the tables in the temple?

What would Jesus steal? Who would he prosecute? What about you?

4 thoughts on “What Would Jesus Steal?

  1. I remember when, as a fairly new Christian, I went to my first Spring Harvest event in Minehead. I was blown away by being surrounded by so many other Christians, where everything seemed so perfect… everybody trusted each other, things were left unlocked or outside chalets with no worry about theft ……
    then on the last day, my new bike got stolen!

    Seriously though, as an online retailer, we do find that sometimes people have purchased items with a stolen (or maybe “borrowed”) card…or that they say parcels have not arrived, when in fact they have… again, it was a shock to my system at first, to discover that people could behave this way…but then you start to learn that everyone is a broken vessel, and we all fall way short of God’s perfect design….it doesn’t get your stolen goods back, but at least it helps to understand why human beings behave in such a way.

    Maybe the stolen WWJD bands in Australia will bring somebody else to faith in some round-about way, I don’t know. I do know that, in a world where all Christian retailers are struggling to survive, the last thing you want is theft of your stock, no matter how small the item might be.

    Andy Rigby, Manager, christianbits.co.uk

  2. I have to admit that the broken vessels and bringing to faith aspect is something that I try to work with here too.

    I have a sign up that says ‘God is Watching what you do, it’s Him you’ll have to answer to! please don’t steal it breaks a command – instead come up and talk to me and we’ll see what we can do!’

    Does it work? sometimes.
    I have a customer that I do a scheme with – a lending scheme on the secondhand books, he gives what he can when he can – at the end of it I reckon we work out to an even break.

    However most times the sign doesn’t work – so when I catch them stealing I don’t phone the police, I do take the items back from them and then tell them that I will be passing their description on to the local theftwatch team and that they are not welcome in the shop again if they are going to steal but if they can restrain themselves in future they can come back – however they will be watched to help them stay strong in their conviction!

    I do have to say that I do now have a few ‘regulars’ where that has occured that still come in and now buy from me, and while they are in we talk.
    Do I think they have really turned a new leaf? I guess if I’m honest that I don’t otherwise I wouldn’t follow them around!
    I don’t know, but I do know that the conversations are worth it, the prayers I say for them are worth it.

    I do know that at the end of the day I have recently changed my shop around so that I can see more to ensure more doesn’t go missing – I have the duty to be vigilant, I also have the duty to do the best I can to not make things too hard on others – so being vigilant helps there too ;0)

    The truth is can I afford the theft? no.
    Can I afford to give stuff away? no.
    Can I afford to be generous? the answer there better be yes otherwise I’m doing something really wrong!
    So I will work hard in the shop to make sure no one steals from me – that’s for their good as well as mine, I’ll make sure I work hard in the shop to make it break even and a little more, to ensure I pay my way and leave as little owing as possible, to help others get a foot up, to be able to support my community and outside charities and at the end of the day I will count my tithe and give to others what I can when I can, even if that is only a secondhand book or a second chance – because if i’m not doing that then I’m just a noisy gong, a tinman without a heart, a follower of Jesus without conviction – or at least that’s my take on it, but as to whether I’m right? well I have that sign up and I keep referring to it myself!

  3. When I worked in SPCK Mail Order (and Melanie will know what I mean) one of the distressing things were overseas customers placing huge orders for Bibles with fraudulent credit cards. The orders came with flowery words about loving Christ etc which rubbed salt in the wound. Fortunately, we never fell for it, but wondered whether they were Bibles for use or to sell on.

  4. We have recently installed a few hundred pounds worth of CCTV in our shop after my sisters £400 new phone went walkabouts.

    I also regularly sit down with a friend who has spent time behind bars, and has an ASBO preventing him from going into most shops in the town.

    Being security conscious and being open to those who are marginalised are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    The reality is, to many, we are seen as an easy target, and while in years gone by, we would only need to worry about stuff that could be flogged down the pub going missing, today, everything has a value on ebay or amazon.

    Yes, there are “Christians” who do things that are surprisingly ungodly, but I would say that two thirds, or more, of stock that goes missing is not stolen by christians, nominal or otherwise, but is stolen by “the usual suspects” who figure they can sell it for a few quid online.

    Thus far, we have not found it necessary to prosecute anyone… Indeed, we haven’t even really bothered to review footage, however, our CCTV monitor is above our CD Rack, in full view, and we find that the visual deterrent is enough to make the opportunists think twice, convince them that we are not the “easy target” we assumed that they would be, and move on to somewhere else.

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