If you know a teacher who works at a high school, or maybe even have a high schooler yourself, you’ve probably heard of the newest TikTok trend. You steal school items and post the video of you getting away with it–the bigger, the better. The high school I work at was recently introduced to this trend. Then, because of this, an emergency assembly was called to address the problem.
Why Do We Steal?
These events have led me to discuss stealing with my students. I related it to the content we’d been discussing in hopes of providing a life lesson along the way.
As humans, we have the tendency to follow our society, even if it means doing something we know is inherently wrong. Stealing, as we all know, is wrong; however, students have been convinced to participate in this because it was the popular or cool thing to do at the moment.
As you can imagine, this conversation became increasingly difficult to navigate without discussing the idea that there is absolute morality. “Mrs. B, that’s not true. Stealing isn’t always wrong! What if you stole some food to feed your family?”
I explained to the student that just because my family was in need, that did not justify stealing. My needs do not trump truth.
“Well, Mrs. B, what if you stole some food to feed someone else? Like, you’d be helping them!”
This conversation began to spiral, and it became difficult for me to explain my point without bringing the character of God into the conversation.
However, this conversation, and the stance my students took, has given me a great perspective on how important God’s definition of truth is, and how it is superior to man’s truth. How easy it was for my students to justify theft (in their own lives) without looking to an authority above them. It made me think: how many times do we as Christians do the very same thing?
The Law of God Shapes Our Morality
Thinking over this topic through a biblical lens has given me an even greater delight in God’s word and displayed the importance of seeking His will above my own. It has highlighted fundamental truths that become obvious when we think and study the topic of God’s absolute truth.
As a history teacher, I am constantly studying and teaching on past injustices. Initially, studying history can spark pride in me.
How could that terrible event ever happen? I have even had students blatantly tell me, “Well, I would never believe that was right if I was alive back then!”
It’s easy for us to blindly assume and even justify why we would be the ones on the right side of history. However, studying history should lead us not to a prideful heart, but a deep humility.
History holds up a mirror for us to see man’s imperfections and inclination to sin. It shows us how close we are to falling into evil and following along with society.
We need God’s righteous, unchanging standards to shape our morality. They remind us of Christ’s fulfillment of the law of God.
Morality Shaped By Society in the Old Testament
The tendency for man to be persuaded by the ways of the world over the Lord’s way is a principle outlined in Scripture. 1 Samuel 8 is an example of this.
During this time, Israel was led by the only perfect and just king—God himself. However, comparing themselves to other nations fed their doubt and dissatisfaction.
Eventually, the desire to be like everyone else led them to demand from the Lord a king on earth. However, this was not his purpose for them at that time. They ended up rejecting God’s plan for them, even though it was best for them.
In 1 Samuel 8:7 the Lord says to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” Israel ends up rejecting God and His plan because they desire following people over following the Lord.
Morality Shaped By Society Today
This is not a new tendency for humans, nor is it a tendency that is irrelevant for us today. How many ways do we end up following our culture, doing things that the Lord himself has not desired? How is it we have the opportunity to be led by the only true and perfect King, yet we choose this world over him?
In college, I had a professor who used to state over and over again that “cultural syncretism is the single greatest threat to covenant faithfulness.” This is a mantra I have carried over into my daily life. We see this theme throughout Scripture; a desire for Israel to be like other nations leads them to a broken relationship with the Lord.
When they adapt to other cultures or begin following laws other than God’s, it breeds unbelief and threatens their relationship with God.
Today we face the same threat that the Israelites did in conforming to the culture around us. When we do conform, unfaithfulness to the Lord becomes widespread.
The importance of God’s law is for us to be bound to him and not to the things of this world. We as believers need to pray for our morality to be shaped by our King, and not ourselves or our society.
This acknowledgment gives us humility about our sinful tendencies and a deep dependence on the Lord. We need to pray for a heart that is sensitive to God’s righteousness over anything else.
The Law of God Reminds Us of Christ’s Fulfillment
“Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)
Studying and seeking God’s word will lead us to an even greater understanding of the gospel. His word is meant to show us our shortcomings, mistakes, and imperfections. Furthermore, it beautifully reminds us of our deep need for and dependence on Christ’s fulfillment of the law.
If we don’t understand the perfection of God’s standards, then we won’t understand Christ’s perfect fulfillment. The incarnation and obedience of Jesus Christ becomes sweeter when we see God’s demands more clearly through Scripture.
Understanding God’s Grace
On the other hand, if we are not striving to understand God’s word more and more each day, then we are not striving to have a deeper meaning of Christ’s sacrifice for us better. Therefore, this leads us to have an understanding of grace that is cheap, and a faith that is shallow.
Pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains this concept of cheap grace, why it is dangerous, and how it yields apathy.
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. (The Cost of Discipleship, 45)
By reflecting on God’s righteousness and having awe and reverence for it, we are better able to understand the gospel and Christ’s call on our lives as believers. We are able to see how costly it was for a righteous God to take on flesh and become man. This understanding leads us to a deeper commitment to Christ.