THIEVERY: A THEME OF THE BIBLE


Anonymous

(Investigator 56, 1997 September)



INTRODUCTION

The Bible 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".


The 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.

The 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 genetics.

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)

The date is problematic but the question of the origin(s) of modern humans is far from over.

The Eden 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.


THEMES


Garden of 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".

The Eden 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)

Consequences of each of these happenings in Eden can be traced through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

Much of 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 getting repeated.

In this 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


In the 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.

After 1936 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 economics".

To prepare 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)

In other 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.



THIEVERY AS A THEME

One 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 history.

According to Genesis chapter 3 Adam and Eve rebelled against God by eating fruit they were commanded not to eat.

Later in 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.


In between Genesis and Revelation are scores of examples of stealing, including the plundering of nations, plus many commands against stealing.

The Law 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)


The Bible 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.

The Bible 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 theft/stealing.

Consider the costs.

In Australia: "power theft adds $20 each year to every consumer's annual bill." That's not much, so let's go on.

In Australia: "Insurance fraud costs you $70." (Sunday Mail 1997 March 9, p. 9)  Still quite tolerable.

In 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.

Entire 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."

The point 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.

Some 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.


CONCLUDING THOUGHTS


There is 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 in 1994!

Humanity 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."

In this way the themes and ethics of the Bible are related to the long-term survival of the human race.



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