Did you hear about the man who got caught stealing a calendar from the office where he worked? He got 12 months!
All stealing is sinful, but stealing from your employer is a special kind of sin. That’s why the Apostle Paul told Titus to
“Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters…not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity” (Titus 2:9,10).
The word “purloining” means stealing, but it refers to a very specific kind of stealing. Webster’s Online Dictionary defines it as: “to appropriate wrongfully… often by a breach of trust.” When a man robs a bank with a gun, that’s stealing. But when a bank employee embezzles a bank’s money, that’s purloining, for banks trust their employees to handle their money honestly.
Masters in Bible days often trusted their servants with their money—often with all their money, as when Potiphar made Joseph his “overseer” (Gen. 39:1-6). A man in a trusted position like that could easily rob his master blind. Other Bible servants were trusted with just enough money to buy something at the market. If such a man told his master that an item cost 100 shekels and it only cost 90, he could easily pocket 10 shekels and his master would never be the wiser.
While the word “purloining” doesn’t always refer to stealing something by a breach of trust, we know that it does in our text, for Paul says that servants should be: “not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity.” That’s a word that means faithfulness. The Marine Corps motto is Semper Fi, which is an abbreviated form of the Latin phrase Semper Fidelis—“Always Faithful.”
When I was a boy, my mom had a “hi-fi” in our living room. The manufacturers called it that because they claimed the sound you heard from their record player had high fidelity, that it was highly faithful to the sound recorded in the studio. They claimed that their device made the record sound exactly like the original music. So in saying that servants shouldn’t be purloining, “but shewing all good fidelity,” Paul was saying if a master trusted a servant with 100 shekels that he should give his master his item and the exact change, with no purloining.
While we don’t have masters and servants today, plenty of purloining goes on in the workplace! Employees bring home all kinds of things from work. Years ago Johnny Cash sang a song called “One Piece At A Time,” a song about an employee at the Cadillac plant in Detroit who couldn’t afford a Caddy so he proceeded to steal one by taking it home one piece at a time. It’s funny to laugh about that, but one of the lines of the song says, “I’ve never considered myself a thief, but GM wouldn’t miss just one little piece, especially if I strung it out over several years.”
Well, you might not consider yourself a thief for purloining, but you are one, and it’s not funny. A recent study showed that purloiners steal 50 billion dollars’ worth of things annually. Compare that to the losses sustained by thieves who steal the old fashioned way, by breaking and entering, or by robbing people at gunpoint—a comparatively paltry 14 billion dollars’ worth!
Employees also steal time from their employers. A recent study says that the average employee steals 4.5 hours per week from his boss while ostensibly working a forty-hour week. That adds up to 6 weeks per year per employee, costing companies hundreds of billions of dollars.
Now I know that it’s easy to think, “My boss doesn’t pay me enough anyway, so I’m just evening the score.” But if that’s how you feel about this issue, consider that Paul was telling slaves not to be guilty of purloining. If anyone had a score to settle, it was men who weren’t getting paid anything for their labor! But Paul tells even them not to be guilty of purloining.
So if you’re stealing from your employer, knock it off, and show him all good fidelity instead. You’ll be Pauline in practice, not just in doctrine, and you’ll be eternally glad you did.
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.