THIEVERY: A THEME OF THE BIBLE
56, 1997 September)
has many themes — unifying ideas, which we can trace through from
Genesis to Revelation.
The themes start in the Garden of Eden and end
after the final judgment with "paradise restored".
present article will not attempt to prove the Garden of Eden
story. The story does have potentially, scientifically, testable
statements. One river from Eden, for example, flows through a land
noted for gold deposits. (Genesis 2:10-14) Potentially the
greatest gold strike is yet future in or near eastern Turkey — the
approximate location of Eden.
story implies that all humans descend from one woman and all humans
descend from one man. The story also says that the two lived at
the same time. These claims may become testable by the science of
For example TIME reported: "Scientists have dealt
a blow to the idea that modern humans arose simultaneously in different
part of the world. Analyzing a gene on the Y chromosome of 38 men from
all over the globe, they…concluded that humanity's ancestors formed a
small, concentrated population as recently as 270,000 years ago." (1995
June 5 p. 23)
is problematic but the question of the origin(s) of modern humans is
far from over.
story also describes ancient river courses — different to current river
courses - which may become testable by mapping sub-surface features
with remote sensing technology from satellites or space shuttles.
Eden story in Genesis 3 mentions the first lie, the first deception,
the first slander, the first rebellion, the first theft, the first
guilt, the first shame, the first disagreement between God and humans,
the first example of someone disobeying God in order to obey another
human, the first passing of blame, the origin of death among humans,
and of course the loss of paradise — and attributes all this
to the "serpent".
story also has the Bible's first prophetic hint that some one will come
who will undo all the evil which the "serpent" started. (3:15)
of each of these happenings in Eden can be traced through the Bible
from Genesis to Revelation.
the counsel and advice in the Bible is intended to promote long, happy,
healthy, prosperous lives. (Proverbs 4:20-23) The themes of the Bible
are related to that idea in suggesting why people fail to live long,
prosperous, happy lives — they fail because the sins in Eden keep
article I'll focus on the theme of stealing and the harm caused by
stealing to individuals and to human society(s).
A GIGANTIC PLUNDERING FORAY
book Hitler and Nazi Germany (R G L Waite 1994 pp. 87-89) it is
argued that until 1936 the economy of Nazi Germany operated within the
rules governing normal economic life and satisfied consumer demands to
a reasonable extent.
further progress required either a "return to a normal economy
operating within the general framework of the world economy" or
"a ruthless, aggressive plunder economy which denied all principles of
for war required the latter course and a Four Year Plan started the
"plunder economy". To actually make war after that period with an
economy which was "bled white" and "exhausted" would then require: "…the conquered
countries would pay for German war preparations as well as for the
German war effort. Hitler's Four Year Plan deliberately risked the
total ruin of Germany's economy in the expectation it would be built up
again by means of a war which would serve as a gigantic plundering
foray." (p. 88)
words the Government of Germany planned a program of organized thievery
on one of the most massive scales in all history.
And we know the
result: The destruction of about 100,000 towns and villages, the
violent deaths of over 30,000,000 people and the expansion of Communism
for half a century.
AS A THEME
of the Bible is that of thievery/stealing and the harm caused by
thievery to individuals and to human society(s). It's a theme about one
sort of human conduct which permeates and influences everything in
to Genesis chapter 3 Adam and Eve rebelled against God by eating fruit
they were commanded not to eat.
the Bible the New Testament teaches that thieves and robbers are
excluded from the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
In the last book, Revelation, we read of the judgment of all
unrepentant "liars" (21:8). This would include most thieves since
thievery often necessitates being a liar to cover up.
Genesis and Revelation are scores of examples of stealing, including
the plundering of nations, plus many commands against stealing.
of Moses, for example, stated, "You must not steal." (Exodus 20) Jesus
called the Temple with its commerce, "A den of robbers." (Matthew
21:13) Judas Iscariot was a thief (John 12:6) and money motivated him
to betray Jesus. Paul wrote, "Let the thief no longer steal."
(Ephesians 4:28) Paul included "covetousness" among the reasons
for God's future "wrath". (Colossians 3:5-6)
does not distinguish many categories which in a general sense could
come under a stealing/thievery label. Any permanent,
unauthorized, taking of another's property or money, or destruction of
it, or damage to it so as to reduce its value, could be called
stealing/thievery. Therefore we could include robbery, vandalism,
graffiti, fraud, "fly-by-night tenants", arson, shoplifting, refusal to
repay debt, "consumer scams", counterfeiting, etc.
presents God as wanting all humans to live happy, healthy, prosperous
lives. To promote that end or that effect the Bible gives commands and
guidelines of such nature that if generally obeyed they would produced
the desired effect. One such command is the command against
Australia: "power theft adds $20 each year to every consumer's annual
bill." That's not much, so let's go on.
Australia: "Insurance fraud costs you $70." (Sunday Mail 1997 March 9,
p. 9) Still quite tolerable.
Australia: "Fraud has become the nation's number one crime, costing
every household $2660 each year, new figures have shown." (Sunday
Mail 1996 April 14 p. 15) This figure represented $13.7 billion out of
a total annual crime bill of $27 billion. The $13.7 billion also
represented 3.4% of the gross domestic product.
nations are impoverished because thievery is a way of life and even
presidents have diverted $billions overseas for personal use. A
recent case is Zaire. According to an article in The Weekend
Australian: "Yet corruption remains Zaire's way of life. From
minion to minister, everyone takes a cut… When, in 1960, the Belgians
pulled out, the place fell apart. Since then, the only consistent
action of government has been to plunder the citizenry."
is becoming clearer. My point is that if we add the costs caused
by different forms of theft/stealing, the costs of security, policing,
investigations, courts, prisons, etc, we are dealing
with sums so vast that if they could be diverted we could end
poverty, scarcity and want worldwide within few years.
values and behaviors correlate better with high standards of living
than other values. Thievery/stealing, and crime in general, are as
wasteful as war. They occur partly because skeptics of Scripture choose
to live by destructive values.
much speculation nowadays about the probability of an asteroid hitting
Earth and destroying everything humans have created. A major NASA
mission to study the problem is planned. (New Scientist 1994 August
27) The planet Jupiter was bombarded by 21 mountain-size objects
too could face such a threat. (Investigator 43) If so it might then be
argued, "If we hadn't wasted so much resource in stealing from each
other, and instead spent more on preparing technology for diverting
asteroids, humanity wouldn't have to perish and lose everything."
this way the themes and ethics of the Bible are related to the
long-term survival of the human race.
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