Thou shall not steal
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is worried by the volume of stealing, robbery, corruption, embezzlement and misappropriation of God’s resources going on both in the Church and Government and feels that such should stop in order not to incur God’s wrath. Therefore, in its 12th General Synod held at St. Pauls’ Cathedral Diobu in Diocese of Niger Delta, Rivers State, Nigeria, the Church had its theme at the Synod as: THOU SHALL NOT STEAL.
The Primate and President of the Synod, Most Revd. Nicholas D. Okoh, together with his brother Bishops, the Clergy and Laity gathered for this epoch-making event from Monday 18th through Saturday, 23rd, 2017 to deliberate, pray and study the Scripture in-depth in order to equip themselves against the fight of stealing, both in their private and public lives. The Bible Study leader, Rt. Revd. Ayodele Awosoga, Bishop of Ijebu Diocese traced the origin of stealing and insisted it was part of the consequences of the fall of man, resulting in all sorts of lust of the flesh, (Gal 6:5, 11-12). He continued that it is the product of lack of contentment, envy and desire for what does not rightly belong to a person. This may lead to robbing someone of his rights, property, positions, peace and life.
The Primate in his charge to the Synod delegates noted that the Eight Commandment (THOU SHALL NOT STEAL) forbids us to rob ourselves of what we have, by sinful spending, or of the use and comfort of it, by sinful sparing, and to rob others by invading our neighbours’ rights, taking his goods, or house or field, forcibly or clandestinely, overreaching in bargains, not restoring what is borrowed or found, withholding just debts, rents or wages and worst of all, to rob the public in revenue or that which is dedicated to the service of religion. Therefore, when we steal, we also sin against our neighbours.
Also, in his keynote address, the executive Governor of Rivers State and Co-Chairman of the Local Organising Committee of the event, Chief Barr. Nyesom Wike agreed that whatever name stealing is given, it is bad. Sometimes, people call it graft, corruption or fraud but at the end of the day, what is meant for the common is not properly utilised. He called on all the three tiers of Government to ensure that stealing is given zero tolerance, as this will enable them give good governance to the citizens. He asked the Church to be bold and courageous in speaking against stealing arguing and rightly too that the Church occupies a vintage point in society and so, should serve as the conscience of society. Evil thrives, when good people decide to be silent and do nothing about it. Edmund Burke’s comment is helpful here: “when evil people combine, good men must associate lest they fall a contemptible fall”.
Indeed, God is not happy and that is why in His codified law He said to His people Israel: “THOU SHALL NOT STEAL.” Remember, God did not approve of king Ahab’s illegal acquisition of Naboth’s land nor king David, who appropriated Uriah’s wife. And so all acquisition that are not in tandem with His Word, rather than give us joy may later pierce our souls with many sorrows. The Scripture admonishes us “godly contentment is good and of great gain” (1 Tim 6:6).
Therefore, to curb stealing, the Church should continue to preach and teach, emphasising contentment. The Church should make altar calls and pray for those who repent, as this will enable people to turn a new leaf to God’s glory. On the other hand, Government should be prompt in paying workers’ salaries and pensions in order to discourage from cutting corners to save for rainy days. Government should prioritise and ensure that the wages of the citizenry are not compromised.
“let him that stole, steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth,” (Eph. 4:28). Also, “know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor effeminate nor abuses of themselves with mankind, nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards nor revilers nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God”, (1 Cor 6:9-10).Let him who has ears, hear!
Ven. Ernest Onuoha
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.