The Reasoning of Thieves

I have to tell a story, and I have to keep it vague enough to avoid specifics, but still convey the heart of the matter. Therefore, a parable…

A man finds a sack in the road along a strip of merchant vendors. Inside, he finds a diamond ring, a bracelet, and a loaf of bread. He takes the contents home, pleased that he has discovered this treasure. However, he discovers a shopkeeper’s name etched into the pewter of the bracelet. The man knows the shop—he passes by it every day on his way to work.

“Thank God you have come,” says the shop keeper as the man presents to him the ring. “But where are the remaining contents of my bag?”

The man does not lie. “I have kept them at my home,” he says. “They appeared to be of little value as the bread was quite dry and the bracelet was chipped. Are you sure you need them back?”

“My good man,” says the shopkeeper, “these items are deeply personal. The bracelet is a gift for a friend and I need the bread to feed my family. I would like them returned immediately.”

And the man leaves to return home and retrieve the items. The shopkeeper knows not whether he will return, and doubt lingers. But his joy is full as the ring he means to give to his wife is now safe in his possession once more.

Thus sums up an encounter I had with an anonymous gentleman today. Thankfully, none of these items were mine, though I did play the role of the shop keeper today.

Consider the man in the parable. The act, to me, was criminal the moment he realized these items had an owner. What possess people with this kind of reasoning? The man returned with the ring, why didn’t he just bring the bread and bracelet too?

The owner of the ring, I am pleased to say, is happy to at least have that back. Though, we’re all unsure as of yet whether our anonymous friend will complete his good will and return the remaining items.

I want to remain angry at this person. A colleague involved told me, however, that “God will be in charge of the matter.” Doesn’t that just snuff the flame of my anger. And I am left wishing I had such faith. They are items that can be replaced. The gentleman will find no immediate use for them—its not like he’d find a decent return for them on eBay. I have to keep reminding myself of the One to whom I—and others—are ultimately accountable. It removes significant weight from my need for vengeance.

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