Pickings without Paying


You shall not steal. – Exodus 20:15

One summer day when I was a child, my sister and I decided to pick some cherries. So we hiked to the nearest tree and spent the afternoon in its lofty, laden branches, filling our containers with delicious, sweet cherries. The problem was the tree was in a neighbor’s yard.

When my mother spied the fruit of our labors, we got called on the carpet.

“Where did these cherries come from?” she asked.

We told her.

“Did you ask permission first?”

“No. We thought since she lives alone, and there were more cherries on the tree than she could ever use, we’d just take some. She wouldn’t miss them.”

“Taking something that belongs to someone else without asking permission is wrong,” my mother explained. “You’ll have to go and tell her what you’ve done and pay for what you took.”

Fortunately, the neighbor was understanding and let us keep our pickings without paying.

Stealing infiltrates our daily lives without us even realizing it. We’ve been programmed to take what we think we deserve. We come up with a thousand reasons why we should have what we want. We justify wrong by convincing ourselves that it’s right. We redefine terms to our own selfish advantage.

But whitewashing it doesn’t change it. Stealing – no matter the reason, no matter that what we stole was, in our opinion, “insignificant” – is sin, and sin is an impenetrable wall that separates us from God.

“But I just ‘borrowed’ it. I was planning to return it,” we reason. Borrowing is fine if we ask permission first. While we’re borrowing it, we’re robbing the owner of the opportunity to use what is his. What happens if what we borrow gets lost, stolen, or broken? Then it’s our responsibility to fix it, replace it, or pay for it. And we’re not to be cheap in making restitution, either.

In the Old Testament, if a man let his livestock stray into another man’s field or vineyard, then he was to make restitution from the best of his own field or vineyard. If a man stole one animal, he was to pay the owner back with five (Exodus 22:1).

In the New Testament, the rich tax collector Zaccheaus told Jesus, “If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8). We’re not to be cheap in making restitution. We’re to repay with generosity and quality, even if it means we must sacrifice.

Material possessions and money aren’t the only things we can pilfer. We can purloin another person’s time, ideas, and words.

Stealing means not only taking something that doesn’t belong to us, it also means not giving someone what is due him. We rob God when we don’t give Him back a tenth of what He’s given us (Malachi 3:8–10). We steal from the government when we don’t report all our income on our tax returns. We steal from merchants when we don’t return the extra change we’ve received by mistake. We steal from nonprofit organizations when we don’t honor our pledges.

Stealing is a symptom of something more serious. It is an outward manifestation of an inward ailment, and we can’t fix the symptoms until we cure the cause. In order to stop our thievery, then, we need to examine our hearts and ask God to remove the reasons, which include selfishness, greed, discontent, covetousness, and envy (Matthew 15:19). And then ask Him to give us a generous and contented heart, for as we think in our hearts, so are we (Proverbs 23:7; Philippians 4:8).

Give me neither poverty nor riches. Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For, if I grow rich, I may become content without You. And if I am too poor, I may steal, and thus insult Your holy name. Amen. (Proverbs 30:8-9 LB)

Read and meditate on Exodus 22:1–15; Psalm 119:112–128

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Stray or Stay?

Me and Dean, December 22, 1973


Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled. – Hebrews 13:4 (RSV)

You shall not commit adultery. – Exodus 20:14

Hippie wanna-be that I was in the early 1970s, I still chose the traditional wedding vows: “To have and to hold; for better or worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and health; to love and to cherish; forsaking all others, till death do us part.”

On that day my heart focused on the “better, richer, health” part of that promise. After all, doesn’t true love conquer all? Three years later our first child was born, and romance turned to reality. For the next 20 years, we struggled with raising three children on one income, building a house, and fighting the usual battles with life. The better became worse, richer became poorer, and, while our general health remained good, our bodies began to remind us that we weren’t getting any younger.

Then, 23 years after saying “I do,” I ran away from home. There were other factors in my decision to flee to my brother and his wife in Alabama, but my intention was not just a casual visit: I asked him if I could live with him. He responded by purchasing me a two-way plane ticket for a nine-day stay.

The morning before I left, I asked my husband to pray with me. In the predawn darkness, we knelt before the love seat in the living room, and I wrapped my arms around him. I visualized holding our relationship, like a wounded, broken bird, in my cupped hands and raising it up to heaven.

“Lord,” I prayed silently, “I’ve done my best, but things just keep getting worse. Make it better. Please. I give it all to You. I don’t know what else to do.”

There were no issues such as addiction, unfaithfulness, or abuse. It was simply that there seemed to be nothing left – no love, only heartache, disappointment, and frustration. We never talked heart to heart.

I spent the next nine days praying, reading, and searching for answers.

“God will make a way where there seems to be no way,” my brother told me before I returned home.

Seven years later my husband and I knelt before God again. This time it was in church, at his request.

“Let’s go up and thank God for our relationship,” he whispered to me during the altar call.

As we prayed together, his arm wrapped around me, and I remembered that dark morning when I didn’t think there was anything left. I was wrong. There was: God. Through His power we were able to work through the issues that threatened our marriage.

Dean and me on a day out with family, March 18, 2017

Not that things are hunky dory, even now, during the empty nest years and we have time for each other. At times we’re like a couple of quirky, squirrelly old folks. But we’ve learned that love is not only a feeling. It’s also an act of the will.

What happens when passion ebbs, our bodies begin to break down, and the hormones dry up? Modern society would have us believe that we can find fulfillment in pills, watching porn, sleeping around. But that’s not what God’s Word says.

“Honor your marriage and its vows, and remain faithful to one another, guarding the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband” (Hebrews 13:4).

Honor means to prize highly, to cherish, to show respect for, to treat as precious and valuable. From the romance stage to the reality stage to the revival stage, marriage is a choice, not a fairy tale. If we commit ourselves unselfishly to our spouses, love them as Christ loves His Bride, the Church (sacrificially), then we won’t be tempted to stray – but instead, with God’s help, stay and make our marriages all they can be.

January 2016

Bless our marriage, Lord. Help us to resolve the issues that threaten our commitment to each other. Amen.

Read and meditate on Ephesians 5:21–33; Psalm 119:97–112

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.