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To steal or not to steal - Chris Reynolds

One of the most intriguing characters in literature and movies is Robin Hood. He is the good bad guy, who "steals from the rich and gives to the poor."

The story of this character has been portrayed in cartoons, movies and books, and many young men have made makeshift bows and traipsed through the backyard, portraying the Prince of Nottingham.

The movies, whether the version with Errol Flynn or the version with Kevin Costner, create an evening of choreographed fights, romance and unmatched archery skills. The movies and books are fun, and Robin Hood is a likable character. When you think of a classic leading character who is handsome, courageous and romantic, Robin Hood is the man.

However, there is one character trait that we must ignore about Robin Hood, or it ruins both the character and the story. He was a thief. It does not matter that he robbed from the rich, and gave to the poor. A wrong action with a good motive is still wrong.

The end does not justify the means. Exodus 20:15 says, "You shall not steal."

Unfortunately, America has become a nation with the character of Robin Hood. In 1994, USA Today Magazine featured an article entitled, "How Honest Are Americans?" The article began with these words: "Is stealing as American as apple pie? How honest is the average person? Would you steal if you knew for sure you wouldn't get caught? Did you ever feel you would be justified in stealing from your employer? Have you ever felt that the temptation to steal can just be too strong to resist?"

Anyone looking for an honest man or woman in the U.S. today would have problems. One pre-employment testing firm states that as many as 52 percent of the people they screen rank low for employment, because they admitted to stealing, or said they would steal if they thought they had a good enough reason.

Most people would not walk into a bank and take money or go into someone's house and remove items. However, there is more than one type of stealing and more than one way to steal. You don't have to steal a car, pick a pocket or rob a bank to be classified a thief.

If you think this is one commandment you have not broken, consider this. Pastor Jerry Vines offers this for consideration. "If you have broken any of the prior seven commandments, you've automatically broken the eighth commandment." How can this be the case?

If you have broken the first commandment (You shall have no other gods before Me), you have stolen from God the honor that is due Him alone.

If you have broken the second commandment (You shall not worship false idols), you have stolen from God the worship that is due Him alone.

If you have broken the third commandment (You shall not take the Lord's name in vain), you have stolen from God the dignity that is due Him alone.

If you have broken the fourth commandment (You shall remember the Sabbath and keep it holy), you have stolen from God the day that belongs to Him alone.

If you have broken the fifth commandment (You shall honor your father and mother), you have stolen from your parents the respect God demands for them.

If you have broken the sixth commandment (You shall not murder), you have stolen either another person's life or another person's reputation.

If you have broken the seventh commandment (You shall not commit adultery), you have stolen another person's mate or another person's sexual purity.

One of the greatest lessons parents will ever teach their children is how to live with honesty and integrity. These four words, You shall not steal, teach us three significant truths -- respect what God has given to others; surrender to God what belongs to Him, and trust that what God has given to you is sufficient for life.

The character Robin Hood makes for really good entertainment. However, the character of Robin Hood will cause us to have really bad citizens.

The Rev. Chris Reynolds is pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Christian Academy in Jonesboro.