“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the toll booth, and he said to him, “Follow me,” and he got up and followed Him.” Matthew 9:9 (CSB)
It was the crime of the century. Somewhere right around the time I was learning how to cut watermelon with a butcher knife, I was learning how to be a criminal. I already had the regular sin thing down by then. I could be be jealous, tell a lie, be angry, be envious and be selfish—yup I was a pretty good sinner. But one day, one ordinary day, I became a thief. I became the “Al Capone” of 6008 Carlton Road.
My mom was the Girls Auxiliary teacher at the church we attended. It was a class that taught girls about God and missions. As part of the class, they would bring their change to and put it in one of those small, metal world globes. Mom, to keep it safe, brought the globe home and one day, one ordinary day, I decided to steal.
My plan was never to take all the money—that would be too obvious. I wanted just enough to go to the store and buy a water gun. So one day, she and my sisters left and I was in the house by myself. I went and took the globe to our porch and with a butter knife I began to fish the money out of the globe. Nickels, dimes and quarters fell to the floor. When I got what I wanted I put the globe back and collected my booty. I don’t remember if I felt remorse at the moment but I did feel fear. “What if?” I said.
So, later, Dad went to the store and I tagged along. I went back to the toys and picked up my water gun and bought it. Now those were the days when kids didn’t have money laying around so dad asked, “Where did you get the money to buy the water gun?” I panicked but quickly and efficiently covered the crime with a lie. “Oh, I found it.” I replied. Found it indeed.
The only thing I remember from that point on is going back to the crime scene and making sure I had found all the coins that had fallen to the floor. I didn’t find any but I did find something else. More fear and a burden of guilt. So I don’t know how the story ended. I don’t remember confessing, I know I didn’t replace the money, and I know it still bothers me to this day. I bet mom is going to have some questions when I get to heaven. The cat is out of the bag.
So, along with being a regular sinner, I fell into stealing from God and lying to my dad—and probably my mom. Thankfully, somewhere down the road, I also became forgiven. Its too long of a story to share here but when I was 21 I fell, I was plunged into grace. I threw aside an unhealthy dose of religion and got a relationship with the God of the universe and beyond. And do you know what? That sin, and all my other sins, were forgiven, eradicated, erased, and thrown away. Amazing.
So, put your rocks down. You might be wondering, “How can a professional criminal that stole from God be a christian—much less a preacher?” That is the wonder, mystery and power of God’s love. You see, the worse sinner in the days of Jesus were tax collectors. They were professional thieves who betrayed their friends and country men to the Romans. Matthew was one of those. He was sitting at his collection table taking people for a ride. Then it happened.
Jesus walks up to this most unlikely person and says, “Follow me.” The other followers’ jaws dropped, the Pharisees nearly threw-up and Matthew, well, he stood up, left it all behind and followed Jesus. And, like they say, the rest is history.
I don’t know what your story is like—maybe you’re a lot better than me—maybe a lot worse. Let me tell you what I know—God loves you and wants you in His family. If you are willing to turn from your sin and follow Him, He will forgive your sins and give you a new past and a new future. You see God can handle all this stuff we are in. Crazy days and crazy sin doesn’t faze Him. He can handle your circumstances—and your sin, no matter how much you resemble Matthew or Al Capone. Come to Him today, rest in Him today. He’s got this.