The Simple Gospel
There is an enduring lesson that was indelibly imprinted upon my memory by an object lesson my father taught me when I was no less than three years old.
We had stopped at a small rural grocery store, the type that has nearly completely disappeared in this day and time. To me then, it was almost a magical place in the items it offered. It was the type of country store with the horizontal soft drink case outside under the overhanging porch filled with half melted ice and glass bottles of Coca Cola, Orangette and Grapette. The front door had about three wooden steps leading to a screen door through which, once inside, you were able to take in all the wonderful odors that such places had to offer. The combined smells of fresh ground coffee, apples, bananas, oranges, fresh bread and of course, to a three year old, the intoxicating smell of candy. There is a great variety of scents we can think of when it comes to candy but one of the most clear is the fragrant smell of bubble gum. An irresistible treasure, a box full these individually wrapped pieces of gum were probably placed at eye level and within reach of small hands for temptation sake.
Dad took me in on this occasion and after visiting with the man behind the counter he purchased a loaf of bread and we walked outside and got into the car. What he had not seen me do while he was talking to the grocer, was that succumbing to the temptation and having no money of my own, I had picked up a single piece of Double Bubble. Priced at two for a penny at the time, I enclosed the half cent worth of gum in my fist and held it down by my side. When we got into the car I opened my hand and began unwrapping it. Naturally, Dad noticed this and instantly grabbed the offending hand and looked me square in the eye. He asked me where I had gotten the gum. I mumbled something about getting it inside the store.
Well, my Dad, his grip still firm on the offending hand which he was well aware was attached to his eldest child, the one named after himself, got out of the car. He led me back up the steps and through the screen door and right up to the man behind the counter. He told me to apologize for stealing the piece of gum, which I did immediately, and made me put it back where I had gotten it. The man repeatedly said something like, Oh, thats all right, dont worry about that! Dad simply thanked the man and told him I needed to learn that it was wrong to steal. He did not buy the piece of gum for me. He did not make any excuses to the man that it was a mistake or something. He made it clear that I had stolen it and that stealing is wrong. And that I was never to steal.
After many decades this lesson is still with me. I can honestly say that whenever the temptation to borrow something (my employer owes me this! etc., etc.) has come over me, this little lesson brought to mind that stealing anything is wrong. Do I retain or harbor ill feelings toward my father that he was too harsh in this? Not at all! His goal was to set me on the road toward heaven. I think every parent should be just as clear about such things. In fact, I pray that every parent might have such an opportunity like Dad was provided to teach their children a life long lesson for their childrens spiritual good. Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (NKJ)
Those who claim to be the children of God must be fundamentally different than the world around us, else their claim to such a lofty kinship is in vain and inappropriate. In Jeremiah 7:9-10, the Lord told the prophet to say these words to the children of Israel: Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered to do all these abominations'? Just as the children of Israel were not to commit these abominations and stealing is one of them, we today must remember that we are spiritual Israel. Remember, fleshly Israel had been delivered by God and been given the promised land and deserved to be called His children so long as they remained righteous. We Christians of today, have likewise been delivered from the world of sin by the blood of Christ but must also remain righteous. We have not been saved at such a great cost to commit abominations and think we may remain the children of God. Hebrews 6:4-6, For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
Surely we can realize that it has always been a sin to steal. The Law of Moses clearly stated, in Exodus 20:15, "You shall not steal. Jesus repeated this basic law in Matthew 19:18. The Apostle Paul repeated it in Romans 13:9. Paul goes on to explain the proper way to obtain needed goods in Ephesians 4:28, 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.
I thank my Lord that my Father in heaven has taught me this lesson and the blessing of my earthly father as well, guided by the Word, has taught me this: You will not steal.
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