Jesus’ Preoccupation With Thievery

Sunday I preached about the eighth commandment from Exodus 20, and during that sermon I highlighted the following eight ways Jesus seems to be preoccupied with stealing.

  1. When Jesus cleared the Temple, he referred to it as having become a den for thieves. Yes, he was quoting Jeremiah, but he chose that particular scripture to quote (Mark 11:17).
  2. Jesus referred to the devil as a thief (John 10:10). Two verses earlier, he said all those who came before him were thieves and robbers.
  3. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus referred to the unknown timing of the end of all things as like knowing when a thief is coming at night (Matthew 24:43).
  4. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said we should store up treasure in heaven where rust, moth, and thieves can’t get to it (Matthew 6:19).
  5. The Lord tells a weird parable about the need to tie up a strong man before you steal his stuff out of his house (Luke 11: 21-23).
  6. The parable of the Good Samaritan begins with the unfortunate traveler falling in among robbers as he goes down from Jericho (Luke 10:30).
  7. Judas was thief. Jesus knew this, but chose him anyway (John 12:6).
  8. The Lord was crucified between two thieves (Mark 15:27).

357110f18ce7fa5c52c33246b44ca58fThere are probably more of these thievery themes interwoven in the Gospels, but these are the eight I highlighted. I don’t know if I would build a theological argument from this data alone, and if so what that argument wold be, but I do think it is safe to say Jesus had a slight preoccupation with thievery, and that in and of itself is fascinating.


This morning I was reading from Pastoral Care by St. Gregory the Great.  Gregory is one of my favorites because he writes for pastors in a voice and with a genuine concern that speaks across the centuries from his office in Middle Ages Rome to my office in third millennia West Coast America.  His words spoke to me particularly about something I’ve been observing for a while.  In this particular section he is advising on how to deal with those who are too “meek” and too “choleric.”  Choleric is not a word we use often, but in this context it just means volatile or angry.  Gregory writes,

“When rage drives them headlong, they do not realise (sic) what they are doing in their anger, they do not realise what suffering their anger creates for themselves.  But sometimes—and this a more serious matter—they think that the goad of anger is zeal for righteousness; and when vice is thought to be virtue, guilt accumulates without apprehension.”

As I unpack that for us we find that Gregory indicates angry people often do not realize the problem(s) their anger creates for themselves and others.  Part of an angry person’s problem is that he or she confuses anger for zeal—godly zeal.  This zeal is thought to be righteous.  These people assume that they are justified in their anger and this snowballs the problems all the more.  Gregory might say it like this today, “There is nothing worse than an angry person who thinks God is as angry as they are.”

The reason this spoke to me so much is that we live in an angry age. 

People are angry all the time; and those who are not angry are looking for someone to be angry at or something to be angry about.  This anger can be found in the current political landscape, in our religious dialogues, and in our family lives.  It strikes me, and I could be wrong, but people strive to live in conflict more than they strive to live in peace (c/f Heb 12:14). 

Many people no longer want peace, they want to be right!  Hence, that leads us back to Gregory’s concept of righteous zeal.  The Anger-O-Meter is so high that it is hard not to get swept up in the hostilities.   

However, as a follower of Christ I am called to be dedicated to the truth and right living.  I am not, however, called to be angry about others who do not.  The actions of others may grieve me, make me want to flee, or strategize a way to evangelize but never to be angry.  With very few exceptions, it is not “OK” for a believer in Jesus to be angry.  The Bible says “be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26).  Most of the yelling, screaming, accusing, and spitting we do when we are angry is definitely a sin.  We are guilty of taking of behavioral cues from the world instead of behaving in a redeemed fashion. 

The next time you feel a good righteous anger coming on; may I suggest that you stifle it by taking a moment to pray it through.  Ask God to show you “Why?” you are angry.  Then, perhaps, read the Sermon on the Mount.  That always has a way of changing my perspective on things.  Finally; refuse to comment.  Things usually only go downhill after we open our mouths.  Faith in the Lord often means allowing him to handle the rebuttal.


Breathe deeply.

Trust the Lord.

Hold your tongue.

Let it go.

Be a person of peace in a world of anger.