This is a very nice Bible verse, and probably most of us smile inwardly and nod our heads when we read this passage from Jesus himself. But what happens when something happens to really test if we will live it out in our lives or not?
Last Sabbath i went to the Bangkok SDA Chinese Church, getting there in record time of only 1:15. The Southeast Asian Union ASI director was preaching there, and had asked me by email the day before to bring some English 1858 Great Controversy books. Of course i was only too happy to oblige, and had a good time distributing the books to the people, and then listening to him give a sermon word-for-word covering the entire chapter 31 – Covetousness – wonderful!
My friend and i went back together, getting off our bus stop around 4:20, having spent almost 2 hours on the bus. Arriving at my room, i went to my Acer notebook, and popped in The Miracle Maker CD, and watched that. While getting the computer set up, i noticed that my shaver that i always leave on top of my little black personal-items travel bag was missing. “Oh well, it probably just slipped down behind something” i thot, and spent the next hour and a half happily watching the claymation movie of Jesus’ life.
By now Sabbath is over, and i’m feeling hungry, especially since i don’t eat cooked food on the Sabbath anymore, and try to eat sparingly even of the simple food i do partake of. So i put some split yellow mung beans in the water, and turn on the electric cooker. Now i get serious about finding the shaver. I look all around the black travel case – no luck. I look elsewhere in my little room, thinking that maybe my brain was foggy in the morning, and i had left it somewhere else – no luck. Something about the clothes in the box where my computer is wasn’t quite right, and hey! my notebook is always put in a black soft case and then inside a white plastic bag, but the plastic bag is on the bottom of the box now – what????!
My heart beats faster as i look at my suitcase. It looks alright, in the same place. My fingers slide down to the 3-number lock – my heart almost stops —– the numbers are set totally different than the way i leave them!!! In a flash i open the suitcase, and look at the pockets where i keep all my money that i’ve earned since coming to Thailand in August – GONE! I feel weak. Oh no! First thing i do is pray, then call my friend. She and her husband come over pretty quickly, and advise me to fill out a police report. There is a lot of advice given, like how i shouldn’t have kept so much money in my room, how i should have put an extra lock on my door, how i should have….. Of course my own head presents me with lots of “what ifs?”, but the most important thing at the moment is to try and recover the stolen money.
While my mind is filled with all kinds of things, the most important thing keeps popping up: “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” Somehow God must get the glory from this. He isn’t so weak that he is going to send me to church to get everything taken from me, without receiving any glory from this himself. My friend and i pray by the side of the road that somehow God will work on the heart of whoever stole it, and that somehow Satan’s plans will be thwarted, and that God will receive the glory. My friend really touches my heart when she says something to the effect in her prayer that: “Please give us souls to be led to you.”
The police dutifully fill out a report for us, and we come back to my apt. By now, the building owner and caretaker are both there, looking at videos. Suddenly the caretaker calls the “policeman – guard” type person outside. He has a suspect. Seems that when i had left in the morning, and had said “Good morning Mr. B. See you later”, that a man had been talking with him. Soon after, this man said that he had forgotten his keys, and needed to go up to his room in a hurry. Now this man was talking with the caretaker about how he didn’t have enough money to pay rent this month…. The caretaker gave him the whole set of keys to every room in the building, and this man came back down with them fairly quickly. We intently watched the video, and while the angle did not directly cover the door to my room, we could see this man walking towards my room, and around 40 minutes later, walking out, with something white in his left hand, and something dark in his right. He’s the man!!!
He lives 2 doors down from me with his wife. By now there are 2 “policemen/guards”, and with the caretaker and owner quite a few of us crowd into his room and carefully go thru everything. There are 10 1,000 baht bills lying under his TV, which he explains by saying he got a loan from his workplace that morning. hmmmm. He doesn’t seem angry at all that we are ransacking his place. He avoids all eye contact with me tho…..
We start pulling stuff down from the top of his clothes cabinet. There is an old, black canvas pull-type suitcase, a DVD player box, and one other thing. By now, most everything inside his apartment has been checked, and the guards are carefully looking thru his bank account statements. My friend goes for the black bag, and he takes it and says something about he’ll dust it off. My friend says “no”, and starts to look thru it, carefully going thru the pockets of the pants etc. inside. I look in the refrigerator and under the bed etc. while this is going on, when my friend calls me over. “It’s my Philips shaver!!!” How much joy can anyone have over seeing an old shaver? ha!
The man quickly confessed after that, and the guards tied up his hands with rope, and then handcufed his hands behind his back and took him in their pickup to the police station. By now it is midnite, and the police station is manned by only 2 people who look like almost as lazy as the dogs sleeping on the steps, and definitely less on the ball than the mouse scurrying around our feet on the floor. (yes, this is big, fairly rich bangkok!) Anyway, after doing up papers on the man, and telling him that he may get up to 5 years in prison, the guard-man is called over to receive a warning that going into someone’s home at nite is not allowed, and this could become a court case on both sides – ut oh. Of course i don’t know what’s going on as everything is spoken in Thai, but after around one hour, everything seems to be settled.
The man seems truly sorry, and tells us that he had many debts, and he had used the half the money to pay them off, and half he had deposited in the ATM. We get his ATM card, and at nearly 3am, we get almost half of the stolen money back in our hands. Oh yes, we had scooped up the 10,000 that was lying under his TV before we left his apt.!
Before leaving he and his wife, we have a prayer, and then part ways. Finally we get to bed around 3:15 Sunday morning.
Sunday around noon the 4 of us have a talk for around 90 minutes. I have written up something that goes like this:
” I want to work together with you to help you so that you don’t have to move. (the owner told me she would make him move) I don’t want you to lose your job either. I want to do as Jesus says: “Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.” God is full of mercy, compassion, and love, but also of justice. If you had confessed your crime when we came to your room last nite, i would be ready to forgive you. But you tried to hide it, and did not confess until we found the hard evidence. To learn your lesson well, so you will never want to do this again, you should spend 2 or 3 days in jail. If you do not go to jail, you may be tempted to do this again in the future. This is for your own good.
I am willing to work out payments, for example B3,000/month. I also want you to write down all your expenses, so that you can see how to save money. Also, you should sell your TV & DVD player to pay back.
We should study once a week for 6 weeks from the Bible to see how God wants us to live, and how we can obtain eternal life Then after that, once a month we should meet.
Let’s always do the right thing, and follow what God says to do.”
He broke down a couple of times, especially when i mentioned that i didn’t want to see him go to jail for 5 years, but instead, want to see him with his wife and perhaps kids by then with a happy family. When he heard the part about studying with us once a week, he asked if that meant to go to church! I gave a Thai Steps to Christ to his wife, as she seemed really humble.
It looks to me like this 33-year-old man came from the province to Bangkok, found a job, saw other people with lots of stuff, and thot he had to have it too, not considering if he really could afford it, or even really needed it. From what i hear, this phenomenon is not unique to Thailand!!!
Next, i went to the building caretaker. He is a jovial man, but i pressed the point home to him that he did a bad thing by giving this man all the keys to every room in the building. He tried to make excuses like this man was already planning to get into my room, that he had come quickly when told about it the nite before, that he had trusted this man blah blah blah. I told him that these excuses had nothing to do with the main issue – that he had done a bad thing by giving out every key in the building. I asked if the building owner told him to do that, and he admitted that he was only supposed to give out one key. I told him that when i had forgotten my room key, his wife had carefully gone thru the big set of keys to find mine and take it off the chain and give it to me. But here he had just handed over the whole chain of keys. He admits that he did a bad thing, so i tell him that i had to pay the guard-men 1,000baht for their services the nite before, and that while the man who stole the money was mostly, maybe 90% responsible, he was partly responsible too, and that he should pay the 1,000baht. Whew! Did his demeanor and tone ever change then! He laughed loudly and said “You’ll never get anything out of me!” He then launched into his same circular reasoning, having nothing to do with the issue of his having given out the keys. We leave, and i promise to talk to the building owner about it, and he sounds defiant when he says “I’ll never pay”. I thot he was employed by the owner, but find out that he gets a 3,000baht/month shop rental deduction for being caretaker.
Talked to the building owner today, a young lady, and at first she gives me the same story he did about how the man was in a hurry, how he trusted him etc. etc. I ask if it is OK to give all the keys out to anyone, and she says “no”. She tells me her sister who can speak good English will call me in the evening. Now, just while typing this in my room, her sister called, and told me that the caretaker will not pay anything. I ask if i can get 1,000 deducted from the rent i’m supposed to pay tomorrow. She assures me that will be OK, and the conversation quickly ends. It doesn’t matter who pays this bill, and i don’t want to hurt the caretaker, but i do want him to feel responsible, and take responsibility for his bad actions.
What did i learn from all this?
1. God is in control of everything
2. We really must LIVE out the Bible principles in affairs of this life, even if the worldly response is quite different
3. Not to sound presumptous, but i think i felt a little bit of what God feels like when sitting before this guilty man. His future is in my hands. If i want to push it, i can probably put this man behind bars for 5 years. Instead, i think of what God would want me to do, to show mercy, compassion, love, as well as justice. If you just blow it off, this man will not be the wiser in any way, and in fact, may become bolder in sin, and want to kill to get money in the future. So he needs to feel deeply what he did is bad, so he will not be tempted to do that again in the future. Doesn’t God want to work like that with us too? You can find many places in the Bible where he punished sin and sinners to put a brake on evil, to promote the good. Of course you can see many times where he is forgiving too, and showing his tender mercy and love.
4. I also thot of the Bible text that says something like mercy will be shown to those who show mercy. I sure want mercy to be extended to me, a sinner!
5. I did not cause this act of stealing in any way, and am not responsible for it at all. Some people tried to say i should have put my money in the bank, but that has nothing to do with this man coming into my room (btw, i HAD tried a few weeks earlier to open a bank account, but was refused i guess for being a foreigner). Some said i should have put an outside lock on my door, but had never been told to do that before, and in fact, living in countries all my life where you CANNOT put your own locks on rental doors, i never really considered that it would even be permissible. When leaving that morning, i locked my door with the one lock we all have, and there is a card lock on the main door, so should be safe, right? – Not when the caretaker is handing out all the keys!!!!!
6. Being a white foreigner makes one something of a target…..
7. All the money in the world comes from God
8. This may have been the only way to make contact with this couple to lead them to eternal life
9. Money comes, money goes. Use it for good while you can!
10. A good friend is a very precious thing to have
11. Added 12/6: The responses of each of the two people involved were quite interesting, and really made my mind go to the Bible. One man would not admit he did anything wrong until the hard evidence was presented before him. Even then, he was a bit defiant, and would not really sincerely repent until he found out that his punishment could be very serious. Then he freely confessed – with tears. The other man lightly admitted he did a wrong thing, but when told the penalty, he got very defiant, and refused to even admit again that he had done anything wrong. How often when reading the Bible we find the Israelites or some characters doing something similar? We often think that something we have done wrong is “not so bad”, but when we find out that the penalty is eternal death, what is our reaction? And what about Jesus’ parable of the two men, one owing something like 1trillion dollars and being forgiven, but then not forgiving someone who owed him 1,000 dollars? Yes, i applied that to myself – God has forgiven my sins which are many, so why should i not forgive those who have done something bad to me? Especially true in regard to things that are passing – like paper with people’s pictures on them!