I think I might have a problem with stealing. I don’t take anything expensive—just cheap stuff. Even though I feel bad about what I’m doing, it seems like nobody will miss what I’ve taken. What does God say about this?
God says, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). There it is, right in the Ten Commandments. It doesn’t say, “Do not steal expensive things.” Nor does it say, “You can take cheap stuff.” It simply says not to steal, period (Leviticus 19:11).
You definitely have a problem. The point is not what you are stealing but that you are stealing. While you say you’re just taking “cheap stuff,” it’s still stealing. And if you don’t get help, your problem will only get worse. It is like a stream cutting its way down a muddy slope. It starts with a trickle. But then, it gradually begins to wear down the ground more and more. Eventually, that tiny trickle turns into a waterfall.
Stealing small things now is opening the door for you to gradually start taking other items. When you take something like a candy bar today, it’s easier for you to take a CD tomorrow. I once worked as a counselor in a state penitentiary. Many of the prisoners who were jailed for theft told me that they started by taking small stuff. When they moved on to bigger things, they got caught.
You should treat your stealing problem like any other temptation you wrestle with. Noticing the dangers is the first step. Next, you have to confront the temptations. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul gives us hope: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (NIV).
So what should you do? First, you need to stop stealing now. That starts with praying for God to give you the strength to resist the desire. You might want to pray something like this: “Lord, I know that you do not tempt us more than what we can stand up to. Please give me the strength to fight my desire to steal. I don’t want to do it. Please remove this urge from my heart. With your help I can stop stealing and ensure that my problem does not grow.”
Second, you need to stay away from any people who encourage you to steal. Let’s say you started stealing to impress friends or to fit in with a certain group. If this is true, then you need to get away from these negative influences (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Third, if possible, you need to return the things you’ve stolen. No matter how “cheap” or small, you should try give the stuff back to its rightful owners. For advice on how to do this, talk to a trusted adult.
Speaking of that, it is important for you to tell a close friend, parent, or youth pastor about your struggle with stealing. It’s harder to do something wrong when we know someone is aware of our weakness and will be checking up on us. Tell them when you are tempted and encourage them to ask you questions every week about how you’re doing.
If you continue to steal, you’ll need to seek the help of a professional Christian counselor. A counselor can help you get to the root of your problem, and also offer you specific steps for changing your thinking and your behavior.
Realizing you have this problem is a big step. Stopping this habit is going to be harder; before you know it, this problem can get way out of hand. But with God’s help and strength, you can change. So, make a decision right now to stop your stealing.
Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today/Campus Life magazine.
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