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June 16, 2020

Homily on Theft (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke of Simferopol

For many years I have been preaching the gospel of Christ to many different people, and now I am preaching to you, my beloved flock. I tried my best to teach you the highest Christian virtues. I really wanted you to understand the law of Christ well and apply it in your life. I have untiredly called you to Christian perfection, because the Lord asks us, "Be perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).

I have always operated in this manner. The holy apostle Paul, the bearer of the Holy Spirit, who had the mind of Christ and had acquired the highest wisdom, before which mine is very weak, did likewise. Listen to what he says: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to infants in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" (1 Cor. 3:1-3).

Did I not do the same? I almost always gave you only solid food and very rarely did I remember the milk that is necessary for infants in Christ. I considered you Christians who are not far from fulfilling the whole law of Christ. Was that my mistake? Did I not do it right? No, I do not regret it, because the apostle Paul himself did not always feed his flock with milk, like infants. He wrote fourteen epistles, with very deep content, in which he presented things with very lofty meanings, concerning our faith. He did not always feed them milk, but he also gave them solid food. If I often talked about perfection and rarely in my sermons did I turn my attention to the "heavy" sins, to protect you from them, I did so because I thought that most of you are no longer infants and are able to accept solid food.

Twice the Lord God revealed to the people His will, His law. This was first done in ancient times by the prophet Moses on Mount Sinai, where God led His chosen people when He freed them from slavery in Egypt. Then He gave them the law, the most important part of which was the decalogue, that is, the ten most basic commandments, which you too must know very well. All these commandments of the law of Sinai forbid the most "heavy" sins: such as idolatry, the worship of gods other than the One and True God. They also forbid swearing in the name of God, and other such "heavy" sins, such as murder, theft, adultery, slander, false testimony against our neighbor, and envy for what our neighbor has.

When our Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, He gave us a new law and new commandments, the Beatitudes. In His parables He taught us perfection and the highest virtues. That's why I fed you solid food and rarely did my sermons seem like milk, food for infants. But now the Lord has recently corrected me through a woman who always follows my sermons. I received a letter from her, which fell like lightning in the atmosphere and made me think a lot and made me remember those people who still need milk.

In this letter, this woman asked me to speak in one of my sermons on theft, because an unpleasant event had taken place. She had an acquaintance, whom she often saw in the temple and considered a true Christian. One night she called her to her house and let her sleep there. We have to say that on that day, the woman who wrote me the letter got her pension, with which she lived. In the evening, because she was very tired, she forgot her purse, where she had all the money, on the table. In the morning, when her acquaintance left, the woman saw that some of the money was missing. Her acquaintance did not take all the money from her, only one hundred of the two hundred rubles. But no matter how much she took, what matters is this stinking sin, the theft.

Concerning this sin, the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians: "Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Did you hear this? Did you also hear you who took the money? You will not inherit the Kingdom of God, because of the theft you did! I consider it necessary to supplement what the apostle Paul said with the fact that even the false witnesses, who testify falsely against their neighbor, will not, of course, inherit the Kingdom of God. Oh, how despicable is this sin, theft, which is forbidden to us by the eighth commandment of the law of Sinai! Oh, how the thief hurts the hearts of the people he is robbing! How difficult it is for a poor man to lose almost all his property. The thief does not think how deeply he hurts the human soul with this, while he makes the wrath of God break out on them, and the stigma of the thief is on them and the contempt of the people. This applies to theft in general.

But there is also the worst kind of theft, sacrilege, that is, when one steals what belongs to the Church. Sacrilege is firstly the theft of the liturgical utensils used in the Church and secondly the theft of the Church's money. You bring this money, many times from your insufficient funds, and yet the non-God-fearing sacrilegious steal it. In the old days, rich people became commissioners of a Church, who from their surplus could be benefactors of the Church and even build new temples. There are no such commissioners today. Twice in my province I have been forced to expel commissioners, and even elderly people, for stealing Church money, and I am well aware that many of those seeking the position of ecclesiastical commissioner want to have it first for the access to the church funds. Woe to you, the sacrilegious!

I will touch on the other sins and transgressions that are so prevalent in our day, among those which prevail among the little flock of Christ, or even among its shepherds. Do you know how much people suffer from false testimony? Do you know how many innocent people have suffered a lot because of a false testimony that some people have filed against them? A respected high priest had written to me how much he suffered because of a false testimony against him, by the priests of his parish who were jealous of him because of the lucrative position he held. This worthy priest suffered for many years because of this false testimony.

You know how widespread is another very serious sin that the holy apostle Paul speaks about in his Epistle to the Ephesians: "But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints" (Eph. 5:3). I could name many others. Adultery, false testimony, slander, jealousy, all of these must disappear from our lives and their names must not be heard among Christians. But how widespread is adultery today? I know that one of you, who came to church regularly with his honorable wife, suddenly left his wife because he found another. This unfortunate man did not think about how much he hurts his wife.

You, adulterers, false witnesses and thieves! Be frightened and hasten to repent before your spiritual father, for these grievous sins can only be forgiven if you repent sincerely and wholeheartedly. Hurry, then, because our lives are short and we must hasten until our death to repent of all our impurities, especially of our grievous sins. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.