Witnessing A Thief

I was at the grocery store, walking the aisles, busily checking things off of my list, when I happened to look up and notice a lady loitering around the grapes in the produce aisle. She looked around suspiciously, and then I watched as she plucked a handful of grapes from one of the crates, and stuck them in her pocket.

Was I really seeing this? I looked around to see if anybody else had noticed. Nobody seemed to be paying any attention. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was one of those candid camera deals. I stood there, wondering what I should do.

She was a black woman, probably in her sixties. Her clothes were old and worn. She looked very poor. (I tell you this merely so that you can picture the scene.) I wondered how long she’d been stealing from that store.

The lady strolled away from where she was, and wandered down another aisle. After standing there dumbfounded, literally looking around for anybody else who may have witnessed what I had just seen but finding that I was surrounded by oblivious shoppers, I finally decided that I would just let it go. I kept an eye on her though, as I continued shopping. It wasn’t long before I noticed her back at the grapes again. This time she was picking them off of the stems, and popping them straight into her mouth! I could not believe I was seeing this!

Surely this was a test of my character. I had to do something. I had to at least say something!

Now, I am a totally non-confrontational type of person. I hate causing a scene! I wasn’t sure what to do, or say. I walked over to her and stood about two feet away, obviously staring as she continued to steal. I tried to make my presence known. I’m sure she saw me there. Yet, she didn’t care. She simply kept on eating the grapes, as if there was nothing wrong with doing so.

When I realized that my blatant stare wasn’t enough, I knew I had to speak up. As she reached for one more grape, I quickly stuck my hand out and covered the package she’d been picking from, blocking her from doing it again. I sternly blurted out, “I don’t think you’re supposed to be doing that.” She defensively retorted, “I was just tasting them.” I said, “Ma’am, I believe you have to buy these before you can eat them.” She realized that I wasn’t going to allow her to continue to steal, so she begrudgingly wandered away. I spotted a security guard, and went to advise him of the situation.

When she saw that I was ratting her out, she quickly made her way to the exit. My initial reaction was, “She ought to be ashamed of herself! That’ll teach her to steal!” I was appalled at her nerve! I patted myself on the back for fulfilling my moral obligation.

But then the Christian in me spoke up. What if she was homeless? What if she was starving? Did I really do the right thing? I decided that I’d buy that carton of grapes and give them to her. I went through the checkout line as quickly as I could, and tried to find her again.

I was disappointed when she was nowhere in sight. I drove around the area trying to spot her. I really wanted to give her those grapes! But alas, she was gone.

I went home, proud of my attempted generosity.

But you know, the more I’ve replayed that day in my mind, the more ashamed of my actions I am. When I think of how Christ would have reacted had he seen somebody stealing, I know in my heart that he would have never rebuked them the way I had. My Lord would have kindly told the lady that he would buy those grapes for her, plus anything else she’d like to have.

As a Christian, I was wrong to admonish her. I was wrong to correct her. I was wrong to judge her. I was even wrong to try to buy the grapes for her after the fact. Because in my heart, I felt that offering her the grapes would cause her shame in what she’d done. That it would somehow teach her a lesson.

Shame on me!! Shame on me.

I was full of self righteousness, and forgot to show compassion.

So, why do I humble myself before you and admit my error? For one purpose: that if you are ever faced with a similar situation, you will handle it with the grace that I forgot. Think twice before casting an eye of judgment upon another, and instead think only of sharing the love of Christ. That is what a true Christian should do.

15 thoughts on “Witnessing A Thief”

  1. Hmmm, this happens ALL the time! Like, every time I go shopping. People give or allow their kids to, not just taste, but actually eat a whole fruit, so you know they aren’t paying for it, cause there’s nothing left to weight at the till. Or the lady who opens a weighted and priced package and adds extra to the box of pre priced food. Most of the time I do keep quiet, but once someone was trying to steal a movie, by letting their kid grab it up again after they ‘took it away’ and placed it on a rack within reach of the kid that really wanted it. Of course the kid grabbed it back up after they were finished paying their bill, since I was in line behind them I pointed it out to the cashier (there was no way she could have missed not seeing that) when I was paying and she just kinda smiled, like ‘what to do’ and said in response ‘oh really?’ (not at all surprised sounding). She didn’t even question the lady, who was by now wheeling her cart out of the store. Well, I figured I did my duty to point it out, but I was completely shocked by the lack of response from the employee.

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  2. Sometimes you need to make a choice. the guy in front of me at Micky D’s orders a $1 burger and a water, I saw him fill the glass with coke. Based on what he looked like, I didn’t say anything, I figured the burger and coke were pretty much all he would have that day. It might be that in the city things are different, but debated about it and just could not rat the guy out, especially when I knew the coke would be tossed out and no one would get the cals from it. I justified not telling by better used than tossed.

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  3. Great message Kendra! We are learning about this in our church! But no, not shame on you. Shame off you. You corrected yourself and learned. Great job girl!

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  4. I agree with Emma and some of the others. You were not judging her by telling her to buy the grapes before she ate them. It is wrong period. The second thing you did was right also trying to buy them for her. Don’t beat yourself up that is the enemy speaking not God.

    You will be quicker next time and just simply pray for her and cast that care unto God. He knows your heart after all He has it doesn’t He? Hugs

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  5. This was such a blessing to read, Kendra! Thank you for sharing. I too in such situations am often so uncomfortable with figuring out what *I* need to do personally, rather than thinking of how I can actually help and share the love of Christ.

    As Nikki, mentioned, there is nothing wrong with confronting the person; BUT, as you shared, showing love by helping would both confront and love, which is what the Gospel is. And what the Gospel does.

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  6. The LAW says stealing is wrong and it doesn’t matter if the stealing is done to Al or Gina, or Alberston’s or Giant.

    The GOSPEL says some folks have fallen on hard times and offers to buy a loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, and a bag of fruit.

    Law without Gospel is harsh and doesn’t show mercy. Gospel without Law ignores justice. We need both to show God’s love for us (and other people) through Jesus Christ.

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    • Emma,

      Yes, you are exactly right. I don’t think I was wrong to stop the lady from stealing. It was my heart that was in the wrong place. Next time, I will still stop a person from stealing, but with a kind spirit, offer to help them. THAT is the right thing to do.

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  7. Hi Kendra,
    I do not think you were wrong in telling the lady that she needed to buy the grapes before tasting them.It is never okay for someone to steal.It is not really a matter of judging her.What were you judging?It was more like correcting a child for a wrong he has done. The store had to buy the grapes.Maybe next time she goes to steal she will remember this.Nikki

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  8. In this country, no one should need to steal food, I have been homeless myself, and I learned if you ask, anyone will help. I have given people who ask for food money. I hope it is what they use it for. If you see her again, just tell her to ask, and you will help. It is hard not to judge people, when there are many out there who take advantage. I try now to just give, if there are children I just help how I can. I pray for them. I am just saying we should swallow our pride and ask or just help if we can.

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  9. I think you did what most of us would do. Or would want to do. I would do something worse…just sit back, watch and then tell everyone about it. Which does nothing for her walk with the Lord and even worse to mine. I hope you find her to give her the grapes!

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  10. Ohh, Kendra…

    You have just about actualized a lot of the same attitudes that I have most recently asked Jesus to change in me, because like you, I speak up when I think something is wrong but is my action the way Jesus would want it to be?

    I am very humbled by your story. Thank you, Sister in Christ, for sharing this. It is a real testimony of the struggle between our Spirit and our flesh.

    In all you do, I pray the Lord keep and bless you-

    Mistie

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  11. I think you had the right idea later Kendra, to buy the lady food. It’s not a good idea to give money – seen it used to buy achohol too many times. But buying the person enough food to fill their stomachs for a month and using the opportunity to tell them about the Lord Jesus is GREAT. I surely don’t think turning a blind eye to stealing is a good idea though either. Maybe if enough people would show enough love to buy homeless folks food then they wouldn’t feel the need to steal.

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  12. Kendra, Thanks for sharing your story. I don’t think fast on my feet and a couple of situations like Lisa’s has caused me to stumble through with very little grace on my part. I hope I remember next time!

    One thing that I want to try and do is to keep $5 or $10 in my pocket when I go shopping in the big city. I want to pray beforehand and ask God if there is anyone who needs my money, and that He will direct them to me. That way, when they approach me, I’ll be ready. Often I’m thrown off guard and am afraid to reach in my purse right in front of them (because not all are truly needy and some may be desperate enough to do something rash). I want my mindset to be “I don’t have to give, but rather I get to give!” I’ve got a long way to go. I pray Jesus will transform us all beginning with me!

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  13. It is a lesson learned and you will know what to do next time…the reason why I say this is years ago we were in Washinton DC eating breakfast at a McDonalds…we met our Nephew there.. He bought breakfast for the 6 of us in my family..4 kids and my husband and I..This man came up to ME not anyone else in the group…there was 12 of us together..This McDonald’s had a security guard.. This man comes up to me while I was eating and asked if I could buy him breakfast…First I was dumbfounded…He said he was homeless..I didn’t have any money on me because our nephew bought it for us..Well my nehpew told him to go away..I have felt guilty since..I should have given him what I had because I was going home afterwards to a home and food.. Everyone knew I was having a hard time after that..They told me he wasn’t homeless because he was clean shaven and had clothes that looked clean…excuse after excuse they were telling me so I would feel better..to this day I have felt guilty about it..Everyone at my table said the reason why he came to me was I had sucker written on my forhead..After that I decided if sucker is written on my forhead I would not question I would help for now on. Instead of feeling guilty go forward and next time you will know what to do..lesson learned…I will be praying that you have peace in your heart about what happened..Lisa

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  14. Thanks for sharing Kendra. I find learning to not judge others is so difficult when you clearly see people doing things that you feel in your gut are wrong. At times I find myself judging others without realizing it. I need to constantly be aware of it and try to just focus on doing what I feel is right for me.

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