“Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.”
Over the last 6 verses we have seen instruction dealing with a “whorish” woman, stuff related to walking on fire, and sleeping with hot coals. Who said the Bible was boring?
All in all, we have read nothing but warnings detailing the dangers of an “evil” woman. As a matter of fact, Solomon made it clear that the commandments of a father and the laws of a mother (6:20) were to be worn around the neck (6:21) specifically for the purpose of protecting one from a sweet-talking hussy (6:24; “hussy” was my word, not Solomon’s).
So, why is it that we now read of a hungry man stealing food? Well, as we will see, the purpose is to contrast a legitimate need and an understandable crime with an illegitimate desire and a crime that has no excuse – adultery.
I have never gone more than a day and a half without food, so when it comes to the gnawing pains of true hunger I am not an expert. I have experienced hunger pangs, which are short reminders that our body wants to be fed really soon. However, I have never experienced the physical and emotional terrors that come as a result of literal starvation.
From everything I have read, hunger can drive sane men and women crazy. Hunger can make men do just about anything to survive, including eating things that would normally cause one to vomit. I’ve even been told that hunger is one of the most painful ways to die.
Is it any wonder, then, why some men would stoop to stealing food? If it meant the difference between life or death; if one’s body was convulsed by pain, eating its own tissue for energy; who could blame a normally law-abiding citizen for illegally taking another’s food?
Wrong, but not Hated
Solomon said “men do not despise a thief” if he steals because he’s hungry. He doesn’t excuse stealing, but acknowledges that sometimes a man’s hunger can make him do regrettable things. This type of man is to be pitied, not despised. At least his need was legitimate, and his crime understandable.
If we were to despise anyone, we should despise those who won’t give to the poor, or charge so much that the poor are forced to steal. Don’t hate the man who is just trying to survive.
Still a Crime
Stealing, however, for whatever reason, is still stealing, and a price must be paid. A crime is still a crime. That is why, even though a man be hungry, breaking God’s commandment (thou shalt not steal) must have consequences.
It should be noted, though, that when we force others into doing wrong, we are also guilty of the same crime. Many people are hungry only because others are greedy and selfish.
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