I was sitting in my van outside of Sprout Home in Chicago while Cheryl was inside taking a class on making terrariums. A street-looking man came out and squeezed his way into the gated outdoor property of Sprout Home where they stored equipment – there was a small entrance unlocked. Stooping down, he picked up an 8ft step-ladder and wrestled his way back through the narrow opening, but as he turned to walk across the street with it – that just didn’t sit well with me. So I got out and said, “Where are you going with that ladder – put it back.” Of course I already sized him up – I felt quite sure that I could take him or out-run him, so I was safe. Anyway, he stopped, looking a little shocked, and said, “The man in the store said I could borrow it” – and then he bolted across the street and down an alley, into the dark, for it was night.
It all looked innocent because he just came out of the store. But as I watched him slip away, I knew he had snookered me and the store owner. He stole a ladder right in front of me. That’s when I rushed into the store and told “the man” and away we both went, down the alley, splitting up, looking around a couple blocks and met back where we started, lamenting that we did not catch the crook, and happy that we didn’t get ambushed trying to retrieve such a rare and valuable item!
Safe and Sound, warming up in the van I began to think about the subject of stealing, stealing something so brazenly, stealing – that means taking something that doesn’t belong to you – it means that if you take something that doesn’t belong to you, you are a thief. Wondering to myself a little more broadly, “I wonder how many ways a person can steal – I mean, how many types of thieft can you do: you can steal tangible things lake ladders and lawnmowers, you can steal someones idea, identity, and make a fortune. You can steal the hard work of another by going on-line and co-opting a paper for your teacher that you didn’t write – it’s called plagiarism, technically, but it’s called stealing if you get caught. You can steal someone’s copywrites by printing or downloading. You can steal in many, many ways. But nothing truly highlights the wretchedness of stealing the one thing in the world that is not only the most priceless thing but also the most stolen item – precisely because it really is the most valuable thing man appraises – he’ll do anything to get his hands on it – glory.
God said that he’ll not share his glory with man. That’s because it doesn’t belong to him. Stealing glory from God is easily done, in fact, we do it so often, we even think “the man” said we could. Here’s how:
Whenever you take credit for what God has done for you, you steal what belongs to him. And as Paul cleverly asks, “what is there that you have that you did not receive?” The apostle further argues, “then why do you boast as if you did not?” (1 Cor. 4:7). And there it is: we are glory-thieves, robbing and stealing our way through life, brazenly in front of God while he listens to us blather on and on about our accomplishments, our achievements, our witty and shrewd decisions – and never saying something like, “I thank the Lord for giving me the strength, the wisdom, the grace, the patience, the insight,” – the whatever it is that you and I have successfully done in any way at all.
Unlike yours truly, God is not mocked. On judgment day he will give to every thief his just due – and every thief will have to agree because not even a thief serving 20 yrs for theft thinks it’s ok to steal his cigarettes. We are self-condemned. However, if you believe that Jesus Christ was your substitute as he hung beside a thief, taking upon himself your glory-stealing, and suffering what punishment belonged to you, and by faith repent of your stealing the most valuable item in the world – God’s Glory, then your sins are forgiven and you are set free – free to give God the glory for the rest of your life for all that he graciously does for you – “to him belong all the glory.”
On the Cross of Christ, God the Father retreived his stolen Glory – do you agree?