Without commenting on each one here, it should be obvious that God has found it necessary to issue specific commands binding under grave sin. Why would God have to command that which right reason would indicate to be something natural to us? The only answer could be that human beings do not act according to the natural laws of their nature. Let us take the example of stealing.
Stealing, or, theft, is the taking of a thing against the reasonable will of its owner. Keeping in mind that theft is a violation of the right of ownership and is, therefore, an injustice against one's fellow man that must be restored before there can be any talk of `peace and justice,' it seems appropriate to bring this matter to the attention of all those who consider themselves `just' and `peaceable.'
If you were to ask any shopkeeper or tradesman what his biggest problem is, undoubtedly, he would answer: THEFT! Why do people steal if it is against natural law? There are many wise sayings about stealing that are born of painful experience. Some are: "Opportunity makes the thief." That's not very nice is it? Especially those who have controlled the temptation to take someone else's property would find this aphorism insulting. No. Not everyone is a thief. But, I'll bet everyone has stolen something at one time or another. Whether it be another person's good name or his goods.
Children easily fall into this evil without realizing it. Only when instructed that taking someone else's property without the owner's permission is wrong do they refrain from `helping themselves'.
But, if you were to ask a child if it were all right to take his toys against his will, the answer would be an emphatic "NO!"
Would it be all right to take your car against your will? Or, would it be all right for someone to enter your house and take whatever might be deemed of value to the taker? Is it all right to have your reputation, that is, your good name in the community, taken from you by someone whom you do not even know? You would rightly object to any and all of the above attacks upon your person and your personal property.
There is no lengthy reasoning process required to resent and resist anyone taking your property, both material and spiritual, against your reasonable will. Such a reaction is natural. Why, then, should that which is natural to you and self-evident, be different for anyone else?
But is not this the attitude of most people? Most people will readily agree that it is wrong to steal from them; but these same people will see nothing wrong in stealing from someone else.
Does it seem right to take the goods of fortune from those who have labored to acquire them? They who steal another man's good name or another man's good fortune are simply THIEVES. I am sure that such individuals, if one were able to observe their lifestyle, would prove to be slothful and immoral in other ways, too. The thief is one who has no self-respect to begin with. He attempts to live at the expense of other men's sweat and toil.
The thief is also a liar. The two go hand in hand. Therefore, the man who will steal will also be the man who will lie. And the man who will lie, is the man who will steal whenever an opportunity presents itself.
More money is spent in protecting the innocent from such social parasites than in the production of positive consumer goods. This is true because everything that is produced must be surrounded with costly means of protecting them from thieves.
The question is: Why is theft more prevalent today than it was in the past? The only obvious answer could be that moral values have been undermined to an alarming degree. Where should we look for the cause? Is the cause not to be found in the home and in the school where moral values have been expelled?
In the past, checks were introduced for the sake of safety and convenience. Now, there are so many bogus checks written on none-existing funds that tradesmen are at a loss to accept them. I ask you: What kind of person would write a check, knowing that it is a lie? What kind of person would use this means of abusing another person's trust in order to steal from him?
Petty thefts coalesce to form a grave sin when the intention is to accumulate a large sum by such pilfering.
Petty thefts that are repeated frequently automatically add up and constitute a grave sin either because no restitution is made or because the intervals are short.
Restitution. Restitution is an act by which the goods which a man lost through a violation of commutative justice are restored to him.
If the goods themselves cannot be restored, then their reasonable value at the time of the theft are to be restored. Likewise, the fruits of labor must be restored. For example: If an employee steals something from his employer, not only the value of the thing stolen must be restored, but also the potential profit from the employer's sale of the object must be restored.
As a principle, the object itself must be returned. It is not enough to restore its value. However, if this should betray the thief, he may restore the thing's equivalent. He who has received the thing from the thief is bound to restore the thing to its lawful owner.
It would be good for all thieves to know that even though they may escape justice in this world, there is a just Judge from Whom they cannot hide. It is He Who will repay them if they do not repent before they stand before Him.
Return to Contents
Return to home page.