The Car Thief In Me

Erik Cooper —  March 18, 2015 — Leave a comment

It didn’t take long to realize that my morning was ruined.

“Do you drive a gray Honda Pilot? Was it parked down on the end, next to the alley?”



Aw, for real? Are you kidding me? Yes.

I was still a good 30 yards away, but I could already see the shattered shards of what little remained of my passenger side window. In a matter of seconds someone had ducked in between the parked cars, and, keeping their head below the roofline of the vehicle (and therefore off the video surveillance footage), smashed the glass and slipped quietly into the nearby alleyway, my briefcase in tow. I had even laid it flat on the floorboard and tucked it partially under the seat. So much for partial precautions.

Brand new briefcase.


(and the worst by far)

My personal journal and reflections from 2013, perhaps the most difficult and profound year of my life.

All gone. Probably spread between various pawn shops and dumpsters in and across the near north side of Indianapolis by the time I snapped this picture.


Less than two weeks later the briefcase and iPad have been replaced, and I’ve (almost) come to grips with losing the journal. Maybe those words found their way into the hands of someone who desperately needed to read them. I don’t know, but I can hope.

But there’s another nagging feeling I can’t shake. One I haven’t like facing as I prayed for some kind of redemption from this unfortunate situation.

Why did this guy steal my stuff?

Sympathizers might say, “maybe he needed food for his newborn infant,” and cynics will undoubtedly chime in,” it was probably to buy drugs.” But regardless of the tangible why, the simple truth is this: he wanted something that didn’t belong to him. At the root of this theft was envy.

“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

–Exodus 20:17

Now here’s where things get really messy.

Jesus upped the ante when it came to the 10 Commandments. He said it’s not just wrong to engage in an adulterous relationship, it’s a sin to lust after that person in your mind. It’s as if you committed adultery with her in your heart. He said it’s not just wrong to murder someone, it’s a sin to be angry with another person. It’s as if you murdered him in your heart (Matthew 5).

(Jesus was strangely concerned with washing the dirt from the inside of the cup, not just the outside).

Well, nuts then! How many times have I envied someone (this week)? Their house? Their job? Their family? Their lifestyle? Their financial situation? Their vacation pictures? By Jesus standard, even though I never acted on it, that still makes me…well…a car thief.

I’m not suggesting there aren’t different horizontal consequences between lust and adultery, anger and murder, envy and stealing. This isn’t about dumbing down the severity of our actions or not holding people accountable for the ugly, damaging, and evil things that they do. This isn’t about trying to justify excuses or create some kind of moral equivalency.

But it is sobering to realize the level of perfection God’s holiness demands from our lives. It’s not just what we do, it’s why we do it. It’s what’s inside. And if that’s the litmus test for holiness, I’m just another car thief.

The Law crushes.

The Gospel raises up.

The Spirit empowers.

My only hope is not in my goodness (at my core I have none), but in the righteousness Jesus offers to me as a gift. His righteousness, and the promised work of His Spirit in and through me. I hope the guy who stole my briefcase finds that life someday, too. He won’t have to break a window to steal it. The door is wide open and everything he could ever long for is just laying right there on the front seat, free for the taking.

From one car thief to another, I might suggest you consider taking it, too.

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