Shoplifting has reached epidemic proportions with approximately 27 million shoplifters in America today. One out of every eleven people. 25% are kids, 75% are adults. Shoplifters consistently steal from $2 to $200 per incident. This rather innocuous and allegedly victimless crime takes place every ten seconds somewhere in our nation … and that’s only the cases stores have reported.
The total retail losses amount to more than $33 billion a year and, contrary to the popular notion, there are real, live victims here. You want to venture a guess as to who those real victims are? YOU and me!
The vast majority of stores already increase their prices to help offset those who sneak in, steal something, and walk out with a smile on their face and something in their pocket. You and I are left holding the bag. Or should I say the bill?
Admittedly, it’s hard to find someone who hasn't taken something that wasn’t theirs when he or she was a child. Like a roll of mints, some bubble gum, a doll or a small toy. What parent hasn’t been surprised, at one time or another, to see something in the hands of their child after a shopping excursion and had to ask, “Where did you get that?” That’s why so many mistakenly view shoplifting as an insignificant, unimportant fact of life. After all they’re just kids, and we’ve all done it.
But what if your teenager was coming home from shopping trips with stuff they didn’t pay for? Or your husband or wife came home with bags or boxes of stuff you knew they didn’t pay for? Would you wink at that and excuse it as something insignificant or unimportant? I don’t think so. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’d know you had a major problem — a crime, to be more accurate.
The fact is, the startling statistics show the majority of shoplifters in America are not someone’s little, immature kid taking a piece of bubble gum or some little matchbox toy. Rather, it’s adults who should know better. Unbelievable? It is to me. Is it criminal? It is to those who enforce the law.
Whether it’s those who steal from a major corporation or those who steal from a local church. It needs to stop.
Unfortunately, there’s a far more outrageous offense being committed in America’s churches that actually eclipses what’s happening in America’s businesses. It’s the rampant rise of spiritual shoplifting.
As unbelievable as it may seem, statistics show the majority of people who walk into the average church in America every week give absolutely nothing. You read that right. Nothing. Zip. Zero. They don’t give a thing. They’ve come to shoplift. Taking whatever they can get without taking on any responsibility. After all, “salvation is free,” they say. “Shouldn’t everything else be as well?” Completely ignoring the fact their salvation was anything but free. It cost God His only Son and Jesus His life. Someone always pays a price before anyone else receives a blessing.
Now, if it was someone’s little immature kid doing this – “spiritual shoplifting” – we might be able to wink at it and excuse it away, saying, “They don’t know any better.” But the fact is, in most cases these are individuals who’ve been saved (?) and members of churches for years. Many have become so proficient at spiritual shoplifting, they’re able to somehow weasel their way into leadership positions, smiling and looking sufficiently spiritual so as to deceive the masses, but not able to escape the detection of the Master (Hebrews 4:13; Matthew 7:21-23).
I’m quite confident if the Lord, Jesus Christ, walked into the average church in America today, He’d clean the place out and say, “You’ve turned My Father’s house into a den of thieves, again!”
Is spiritual shoplifting a victimless crime? Not on your life. My guess is the aggregate loss to the body of Christ far exceeds $33 billion a year. The fact there are so many unmet needs, so many churches hindered and hobbling in their ministries due to a lack of funds, ministries borrowing money to do what they believe God called them to do, is a telling testimony of the spiritual shoplifters among us.
God never intended the church to be like that. In fact, He intends for His church to be the best run, best-funded institution on the face of the earth.
“The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving.” (Deuteronomy 28:12-14)
How does He plan to do that? By every one of us being, at the very least, a tither of our weekly income, and giving above and beyond that as He blesses us. (Malachi 3:8-10; Leviticus 27-30; Matthew 22:15-22; Matthew 23:23; Luke 6:38; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 2 Corinthians 9:1-11)
What would happen if we were able to completely eradicate and eliminate spiritual shoplifting from our churches and instead, educate our people to be tithers every week of their lives?
What would happen if we could get every church member to give beyond a tithe as the Lord blesses and keep doing it enthusiastically and faithfully until He returns?
In most cases, church offerings would triple. New ministries would begin. New staff could be hired. New facilities could be built — without debt. Missionaries could be placed on every foreign field in the world, fully equipped, fully supported in a matter of weeks. Bible colleges and seminaries could be fully endowed. Students could go study and train for leadership ministry for free. The list is endless.
So, to the spiritual shoplifters out there, the non-tithers whose thievery is actually, and quite biblically, criminal, whose actions are crippling the cause of Christ, you have two choices:
1) Stop acting like an immature little kid who doesn’t know any better and start tithing. This week.
2) Go ahead and get mad. Ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit and quit the church. In which case the church will lose absolutely nothing. Zip. Zero.
Too strong? Too bad. Shoplifting carries a high cost for every one of us, whether it’s those who steal from a major corporation or those who steal from a local church.
And it needs to stop.
… and all God’s faithful tithers said?
© 2016. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.