Lent is traditionally a season of contemplating the Ten Commandments, or words of life. How many of them can you call to mind? Here’s the eighth:
You shall not steal.
I once went to a church supplier to purchase some ash ahead of Ash Wednesday. The seller informed me that priests and vicars were always being caught trying to steal ash, deflecting the attention of whoever was behind the counter towards some other item they might or might not actually be interested in buying. It was, he told me, a dog (collar) eat dog (collar) world at that time of year.
Theft is driven by a fear of not having enough. Of there being a lack, and of needing to not be found wanting. It is a very understandable fear of slaves — and all the more-so of slaves who are descended from Joseph, the hero who saved the whole world from famine and yet whose memory, at least for the Egyptians, had been swallowed whole by the intervening years, as insatiably hungry as the grave. It is a fear that haunts us to this day, not least vicars woken in the night by feverish nightmares of Ashen humiliation.
But you do not have to steal from your fellow former slaves now that you have been set free by this god, whom they are already, falteringly, beginning to discover to be their Provider. There is enough for all, for today.
What do you fear will run out?