Theft

Everyone I was in prison with could get a little something from the commissary, even if they weren't making money and no one sent them any. The state gave us all either $7.50 or $8.50 a month. (A high-school diploma or G.E.D. was required for the extra dollar.) That was all the money some inmates got. I was fortunate to have family who sent me money, and one day I was digging through my near-full property box in front of a cellmate who wasn't as fortunate. Unable to find what I was looking for, I turned to him and said, "You don't know how good you have it. With practically nothing in your box, you can always find what you're looking for." I wouldn't have said something like that to just anyone, but he had a good sense of humor and took no offense. He was a good guy and I did give him food from time to time, though he never asked. Despite having virtually nothing, he was satisfied with what he had and I could leave my box unlocked when I wasn't in the cell. I wish everyone was as selfless as him.

I knew another selfless inmate who one day noticed when looking at his commissary receipt that he hadn't been charged for an item. He then walked to the canteen to straighten it out and other inmates mocked him for it. They should have had respect for what he did considering profits from the canteen paid for their satellite TV, recreation equipment, etc. Granted, one free item wouldn't have affected the canteen fund. But hypothetically, had there been a computer glitch that allowed him and some others to spend the limit every week without being charged, and one of them had the problem corrected, that person also would have been mocked. Believe it or not, those same inmates who would have readily ripped off the canteen might not have stolen an item another inmate left unattended. I was locked up with guys who said they wouldn't steal from fellow inmates, yet they would have stolen from a fund that benefitted us all. A similar mentality is shared by many in the free world who would steal from stores, yet it doesn't occur to them that the effects of shoplifting drive up prices for everyone.

Thieves who say they don't steal from "people" should ask themselves who exactly they're stealing from if not people. What they take doesn't magically pop into existence. Assuming what they take does not affect the middle and lower classes, it's still taking property away from its rightful owner. Some thieves justify stealing from the rich by saying the rich can afford to lose it, which is just an excuse to do wrong. Others feel they're taking back what they are entitled to. I've heard it said that business owners make money off the backs of others, because they couldn't make their money without people working for them. Well, you know what? If a bus boy making minimum wage in a restaurant said that to a business owner who was eating there, that customer could reply, "You wouldn't be making money if it weren't for people farming and raising animals." Everyone makes money "off the backs of others."

I used to never think anything of rich people saying they're "giving back" when donating to charity or philanthropy. Then I read a criticism of that statement, which pointed out they can't give back what they didn't really take from anyone. It's absolutely true. Had they gotten rich by scamming people, that would be different. That was the case with a rich tax collector who, after speaking with Jesus, decided to give back four times what he stole (Luke 19:1-8). Now if you worked for what you have, you can't "give back" to anyone but God, because He created all and is entitled to take it all back. Yet He doesn't ask for it all. Just a portion. The Old Testament records God telling Jews they robbed Him "in tithes and offerings" (Mal. 3:8). It's the same for Christians who don't give money to the church they attend. Being a Christian requires a selfless attitude. You should steal from no one. Neither God nor people.

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