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Friday, August 12, 2011

8/13/11 Stealing a Reputation

Eighth Commandment: Do not Steal. (Deuteronomy 5:19; Exodus 20:15)

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

(Jericho Today- a Sycamore Fig Tree similar to the Zachaeus climbed by the main road).

Thoughts: In the world of facebook and internet it is possible (and happens frequently) that a story is repeated thousands of times without checking the source to see if it is true.  Or, perhaps part of the source is true and conclusions are reached that over-reach reality and ruin a person's reputation.  One example is the lady in Korea whose dog pooped on the train (and she refused to clean it up).  Some took her picture with their cell phones, others took video and posted it on the web.  Within hours it received millions of hits, and she became known as "The Dog Poop Girl."  The girl ended up dropping out of her school.  In the world of internet we are encouraged to judge, to tear down, to post shocking and nasty stuff.   John Calvin said that part of this commandment is that we not exploit another person.  Tearing people down is stealing away their good name and reputation. 
     Shakespeare said in Othello: "Who steals my purse, steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
     'Twas mine, 'tis his and has been slave to thousands.
     But he that filches from me my good name
     Robs me of that which not enriches him,
     And makes me poor indeed."
The story of Zacchaeus is the story of the opposite of stealing- it is restoration.  Zacchaeus, the Tax Collector (in fact the chief of the Tax Collectors in that region), could legally take from people more than was required.  His name was mud.  His reputation was so bad that people could not understand why a holy man would even be around him.  But if Jesus stayed away from sinners, then he would stay away from all of us (while we were yet sinners he died for us).  When Zacchaeus offered to give to the poor and to pay back four times what he had taken unjustly, he had done what the Rich Young Ruler could not do.  Jesus knew he was not just talking, or putting on a show, but was putting his money where his mouth was. 

Prayer: May my possessions not possess me, O Lord.  May I be careful of the reputation of others.  May I be slow to speak, slow to judge, and quick to listen. 

John Calvin Abridged: This commandment obligates us to care for other's good.  The crafty should know that God sees how they treat those of simpler mind.  The powerful should be careful to know that God sees when they oppress the weaker person. Let each person consider what in his rank and station they owe to their neighbors (rulers rule well; ministers teach by word and example; Let the people respect ministers; parents care for children; children resepect the elderly; workers work well; employers treat their employees as their siblings and coservants under the Lord. We should look after the well being of others.

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