You shall not steal. [Exodus 20:19]
“Is it Sin if You Didn’t Know?”
Susan and Janie and Heather loved to go to the mall. If they had a little money to spend, that was extra fun but even if they didn’t they loved to just look at things and get treats at the food court and meet friends from school and church and just be kids for a while. Susan’s mother felt sure the mall was safe because the girls were together and had good common sense and several members of their church worked at the mall and the food court so they kept an eye on the girls, even though the girls didn’t know that.
This Saturday was like all the others as Susan waited for Janie and Heather to get to her house for mom to drive them to the mall. She fussed with her make up and hair trying different styles and thinking of how the kids in school would react to a different color. Finally, they got here and everybody in the house scattered as the girls had their reunion in the front hall with all the necessary giggling and gossiping and telling each other how cute they looked in their outfits.
“Mom are you ready to go?” Susan called up the stairs. “Janie and Heather are here.”
“Just a minute honey.” Susan’s mom yelled down and finally she came down all ready to go but she had Susan’s little brother Timmy tagging along with her. “Susan, be a dear and let Timmy tag along with you girls. Mrs. Henderson next door is sick so he can’t go over there.”
At first, Susan pouted and made a fuss because she was afraid Timmy would be a bother. “Susan let him come. We love Timmy. He is so funny and cute and we will help you watch him so he doesn’t wander off.” Janie whispered to her friend.
“Yes do Susan” Heather chimed in “You know all the kids love Timmy when he comes and sits in on Sunday School when your dad teaches.”
So Susan agreed and they all had a big time tickling Timmy in the car and getting him to laugh and making him everybody’s cute little brother, not just Susan’s. At the mall, the four had a wonderful time together. Instead of being a bother, Timmy learned how to make his sister and her friends laugh with his silly faces or things he would say making fun of the clothes or the people at the mall walking around. “He’s so funny Susan, we just love him.” Heather said once laughing at his antics so hard that she almost fell down. The afternoon passed quickly and before they knew it, mom had picked them up and they were on the way home for a sleepover.
The girls got busy getting Susan’s room ready for a night of watching chick flicks and doing all the fun things that a sleepover had to have. There was plenty of popcorn and ice cream and make up to do each other over with and they were talking and trying to decide what movies to watch. Suddenly the air was filled with loud sobs.
“Susan!” She heard her sweet little brother cry out from his room down the hall. All three girls ran in. There on his bed sat Timmy cross-legged. He had spread on his blanket some of the toys he had bought at the mall but he was holding a big candy bar and just sobbing. Susan loved Timmy tons and didn’t want him to cry so she sat on the bed and held him and Heather and Janie patted him and comforted him.
“What is it Timmy, did someone hurt you?” Susan gently asked him as he calmed down enough to talk.
“No, look!” and he opened his hand which was wrapped around a very large candy bar. “I don’t think I paid for this Susan. I know I had it in my hand at that candy booth in the food court. But Heather called for me to come look at the movie posters and I just ran to her with it in my hand and put it in my bag without thinking. I stole it Susan.” He sobbed. “God is going to hate me, won’t he? I did a terrible sin.”
“Susan, remember Pastor Smith’s sermon last week on ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal?” Janie asked. “I know all of us including Timmy went to the alter and promised God we never would steal. What’s going to happen Susan? Will Timmy go to hell for stealing now?” Janie asked her friend and she was near tears at the idea of Timmy being in so much trouble with God.”
“I don’t know” Susan exclaimed nearing tears herself holding Timmy tight.
All of the children were about to break down in tears when Heather finally said, “Wait let’s ask your mom.” She ran to the door, out into the hall and called down to Susan’s mom. “Mrs. Morris, please come help!” Her voice was so full of panic that Susan’s mom came rushing up the stairs expecting to find someone bleeding. She found the girls and Timmy sobbing in Timmy’s room.
“Timmy, Susan, what’s wrong? Are you sick?” Their mom said warmly but a little scared touching each of their heads for a temperature like all moms do.
“No its worse. I think Timmy is doomed.” Susan cried. “See when we went to the mall…” and between all four of them Mrs. Morris figured out what the problem was. Suddenly just laughed out loud like she had heard the funniest joke ever.
“Why are you laughing mom? I don’t want Timmy to go to hell.” Susan objected.
“Kids listen to me. Timmy, did you intend to steal the candy?” She asked holding Timmy’s hand. Heather and Janie sat cross-legged on the floor listening.
“No Mommy, I didn’t even know I did it. Is that sin Mommy? Is it sin if you didn’t know?” He asked desperate to know if he was in bad trouble with God.
“Kids remember our Sunday School lesson about sin? Remember what sin is?” She asked.
“I remember Mrs. Morris.” Said Janie. “Sin is anything that keeps us from loving God.”
“That’s right Janie. Timmy, sin is something that comes out of your heart when it wants to rebel against God. It is something you decide to do when you know you shouldn’t. If you had found the candy in your bag and not cried and not told anyone and kept it or ate it knowing you had not paid for it, then you would have stolen it and you would be in sin.
“Then I am not doomed, Mommy?” Timmy said trying to feel relieved.
“You are sensitive to what God wants, Timmy. Girls you are too, that’s why you cried so much. That’s good. It hurts your heart to think of someone you love going to hell. That’s how God feels and that is why Jesus came and died for our sins. Let’s pray that God take all of our sins out of our hearts.” And they all bowed their heads and prayed and when they looked up, instead of tears, there were pretty smiles on all their faces.
“But what about the candy bar, Mom?” Susan wanted to know.
“Tell you what, Timmy. Let’s let the girls get their sleepover going. You and I will run over to the mall, tell the man what happened and you can pay for the candy bar with your allowance money and everything will be right again.”
“Will it really Mommy?” Timmy said with excitement “Will it make it like I never did the bad thing.”
“It will be better than that because the man will know you are an honest boy and he will trust you even more. Better than that, while we are there, let’s get candy bars for all of us and we can join the party, ok?”
HOORAY! All the children leapt with glee and danced around hugging and kissing Mrs. Morris for being so wise.
The LORD said to Moses: “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do—when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, or whatever it was he swore falsely about. [Leviticus 6:1-5]
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