I’ve been wondering how much grace you get if you pray with a stolen Bible.
Bear with me here: I’ve heard several stories about people whose Bibles got stolen (not lost: stolen) and bookstore owners who talk about stolen Bibles. I’ve also heard that at St. Francis Bookstore in Manhattan (34th street) they had to move their basket of plastic rosaries off the counter because too many of them were getting stolen.
The cost for a plastic rosary? At the time, the going rate was forty cents. I can’t imagine it’s shot up much further since then.
And really, from what I know of the folks who run that store, if someone had told them he was so hard on his luck that 40 cents was a hardship, they’d have given the rosary away. They’d even give a choice of colors!
(For that matter, you can read the Bible online for free if you want to. Many organizations give away free Bibles. I believe the Rosary Army gives away free rosaries. If they run out, then dude, you probably have ten fingers for ten hail-Mary’s.)
Now, you can argue that clearly someone who would steal a Bible or a rosary (when he could get them for free) must be in need of grace. Lots of it. But I have to wonder if the very act of illegally obtaining the object is going to be an impediment to the grace that’s necessary.
I’m just glad I’m not God and I don’t have to make these decisions. But in my more sarcastic moments, I like to imagine the following:
Person praying with stolen Bible: Heavenly Father, please help me get a better job.
God: Yeah, your employment situation is pretty bad, but first let’s work on a couple of other issues.
(Heaven knows God has had a similar conversation with me multiple times, though not about theft.)
On the other hand, a part of me wonders if the person won’t read the stolen Bible and come up to the part with “thou shalt not steal” and let out a gasp of wonderment because he never knew stealing was wrong before. (“I swear, no one ever told me I shouldn’t just take whatever I wanted!”)
Like I said, I’m glad I’m not God and don’t have to make these decisions.