By Pastor Jason Paul
One day a thief entered a store intending to steal some merchandise. She was not dressed like your average shopper, and her outward appearance gave the impression that she was a streetwalker. As she grabbed a shopping cart, she placed her bag into the cart and proceeded to select merchandise. Around thirty minutes later, she exits the store with a bag of unpaid merchandise as if she had not committed a crime.
A few days later, another shopper entered the same store with the intention of stealing. This lady had lost her right arm, and her attire gave the impression of being an average shopper. As this lady was getting ready to exit the store with unpaid stolen merchandise, she was approached by a friend. The ladies went on to converse, and her friend comforted her. As her friend left, the shoplifter said out loud that she would never do this again but instead attempted to steal the merchandise, not wanting to get caught.
As a retail outlet manager, I have seen people try to steal merchandise. The store’s loss prevention department often attempts to deter theft and recover the store’s inventory. Sometimes, we are successful, and sometimes not.
But as a Christian, I know that when a person steals, that stealing is an outward sign of an inward condition. I have to get the merchandise back, but the person standing before me has a greater need than the merchandise they are attempting to steal. When you catch someone stealing from you, viewing their spiritual condition over being offended by their actions is tough. You feel violated when you know someone is stealing from you, even when what was stolen was under your care but not yours.
If I allow the thief to leave the building with stolen merchandise, I let a wrong action occur. The Apostle Paul tells Christians to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:11)
As a Christian, I am to expose the thief when they steal, which leads to a question. What should a Christian do in this situation?
Dealing with the external action of stealing is easier than dealing with the person’s internal heart problem. The first thief left and entered a vehicle owned by a shady character that was inside. Why was she stealing? Is she being manipulated by someone else to steal for an organized crime syndicate? Why did she find herself in this position, to begin with? The second thief, when being consoled by her friend, was speaking about an uncurable cancer. Is that why she thought it was necessary to steal?
I may never know the answers to these questions, but why must they commit these crimes? More importantly, how can I address that their actions will not fulfill the need that they are looking for?
During Jesus’s ministry, he approached any person, no matter their sin, and spoke to them about their current spiritual need. Jesus provided an example when he met the woman at a water well in Samaria.
One day Jesus met a woman at a watering hole. The Samaritan woman came to the well during the hottest part of the day when no one would be around. She was probably trying to avoid having a conversation with anyone. She came to get water and left. But when she left, she got more than she bargained for. The Jews and the Samarians at the time of Jesus did not look upon each other’s lifestyles as equals. The Jews would have nothing to do with the Samarians since they looked down upon them.
John 4:9-39 ESV
So, when Jesus asked this woman for some water, she answered, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (John 4:9)
Jesus then proceeded to have a conversation with her about her greater need during her present condition of getting water. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (John 4:10-18)
Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman about her need for water and even her spiritual need for living water. Jesus exposed her sin gracefully during their conversation and her need for repentance. Her sin was causing her to miss out on God’s purpose for her life, to experience the living water that comes from having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we have this living water residing in us. Only Jesus can saturate our souls to look upon people with a concern for their spiritual well-being, what we can learn from Jesus’s interaction with the Samaritan woman.
- Jesus had a conversation with her.
The first thing that Jesus did was to have a conversation with her. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) (John 4:7-8) Jesus did not discriminate because he was a Jew, and she was a Samaritan. Jesus had a conversation with her at that moment about the situation that they were in.
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (John 4:9)
- Jesus spoke to her about her current need for water and her spiritual need for water.
Jesus used the moment to tie in her physical and Spiritual needs. Her need for water and why she was drawing water from the well was a temporary fix. But what Jesus would offer her was a permanent fix, living water that would fulfill her greatest need. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:10-15)
- Jesus exposed the sin that she was keeping hidden.
When the Samaritan woman asked Jesus for living water, he told her what prevented her from receiving it. Jesus wanted her to accept the living water he was offering, but first, she would have to stop committing the sin she was practicing. Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. (John 4:16-19)
Just as Jesus exposed her sin, we must expose their sin and help them see that what they do will cost them eternity. An eternity that is separated from God and is not without punishment. These individuals need a lifetime of fulfillment from a relationship with Jesus instead of sin’s fleeting, temporary fullness.
The Samaritan woman responded by turning her life around. She left her interaction with Jesus and told everyone in the town about what he had done for her. So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him. (John 4:28-30)
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” (John 4:39)
Her response to the good news of what Jesus has done for her is the result we look for. Christians should all want to take as many people to heaven as possible. When Jesus died on the cross, we died there for everyone.
On both sides of Jesus, two thieves also died that day. One was an unrepentant thief who continued to mock Jesus, while the other repented. One thief died in unbelief and became separated from God. The thief that repented was forgiven and joined Jesus in heaven.
Let’s all point others to the cross, where there is forgiveness of sins, and the sinner can find the fullness of life. We have this living water inside us, which the unrepentant sinner does not have. So, let us share this good news with all, for even thieves need living water.