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.
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?