I’ll be making a start to the Christmas shopping this week. It’s not an easy task purchasing original gifts for one’s nearest and dearest. However, as my children have grown up, the days of being pressurised into buying the latest ‘must have’ designer smart and very expensive pieces of ‘technology chic’ have receded. The final bill, which I plan to be modest, will be settled in cash or with a debit card.
In a significant number of Scottish households, Christmas gifts will be procured at no monetary cost. They will have been ‘shoplifted’ by one or more members of the family. This has been a growing trend, particularly since the onset of the current economic recession.
In the past, shoplifting, though increasing, was perceived to be the preserve of the underclass, drug addicts and individuals with mental health problems. More recent research has however revealed a growing trend as elements of the middle classes in Britain have taken to shoplifting in order to maintain their lifestyle.
According to the Mail Online, “the goods most likely to be stolen include gammon joints, frozen chicken breasts, beef joints, bacon, gourmet cheese such as brie or parmesan, Nescafe Gold Blend coffee and wines and spirits, particularly Glen’s Vodka. One Tesco store has even found it necessary to put manuka honey, which can sell for as much as £20 a jar, into large plastic security boxes.”
One security company, Checkpoint Systems has concluded that: “due to the recession, people are stealing out of need for food, but you also have a Middle England group of people who have not had a bonus or pay rise but still want to maintain their lifestyle.......... there is no longer a typical person described as a shoplifter, they can come from all walks of life. You can see the profile of people involved by looking at the products that are being stolen.”
Shoplifting is however only one form of theft from a long list which includes robbery, burglary, vehicle theft, credit card theft and even identity theft. Many people would say that businesses such as Starbucks who employ armies of accountants to avoid paying taxes are as guilty of theft as the shoplifter. Additionally, theft can also involve stealing of intellectual property rights as well as copyright and patent violation.
The Bible in the Eighth Commandment states bluntly: “You shall not steal”. As a result thieves were reviled in Jewish society.
In the New Testament, Zaccheaus a Jew, collected the taxes for the Roman occupiers. He was doubly hated by his own community, because he took more money than the people were due to pay. However an encounter with Jesus radically moved his life from one of dishonesty towards repentance and restitution.
‘Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, half of my possessions I now give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone of anything, I am paying back four times as much!’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘today salvation has come to this household, because he too is a son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’
According to the analysts, Global Retail Theft Barometer, the total cost of shoplifting in the UK is now £3.4billion..........£124.60 per family. This loss is passed on by retailers to consumers in the form of higher prices. Little wonder that shoplifters are reviled in the press and the media.
However, the story of Zacchaeus illustrates that even the most hated of thieves can be forgiven and restored when they meet with and put their trust in the Living Lord Jesus. Now that’s really good news.