Who Is the Real Thief?

A woman waiting to catch her flight bought herself a bag of mini cookies, settled in a chair in the airport lounge, and began to read her book. Suddenly she noticed the man beside her helping himself to a cookie. Not wanting to make a scene, she read on, ate a couple of cookies, and watched the clock. As the daring "cookie thief" ate two more cookies she got more irritated and said to herself, "If I wasn't so nice, I'd really tell him off!" She wanted to move the cookies to her other side, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. With each cookie she took, he took one too. When only one was left, she wondered what he would do. Then, with a smile on his face and a nervous laugh, he took the last cookie and broke it in two, offered her half, and ate the other. She snatched it from him and thought, "This guy has some nerve, and he's also very rude. Why, he didn't even show any gratitude!" She sighed with relief when her flight was called. Gathering her belongings, she headed for the gate, refusing to look at the ungrateful "thief." After boarding the plane, she sank in her seat and reached in her bag to get a book to read and forget about the incident. Next to her book was her bag of cookies. The cookies they ate in the lounge were not hers, but his. She had been the thief, not him.

Friends, this “cookie thief” story reminds us that often the one pointing the accusing finger turns out to be the guilty party. Sometimes the people we complain most loudly about are actually not as offensive as we are. In the cookie story, the woman believed she was a wonderful person to put up with the rudeness and ingratitude of the man sitting beside her. In the end, she discovered that she was the rude and ungrateful one while the man was very gracious and generous.

In Luke 7:36-50, we read about a dinner party Jesus attended that was hosted by a Pharisee, a well respected, very religious man. A “sinful” woman (probably a prostitute) also attended the dinner, even though she apparently was not invited. The Pharisee thinks he is the righteous one, worthy to be in the company of Jesus, while the woman was a “sinner,” unworthy to be seen with the Lord. In the end Jesus makes it clear that both the Pharisee and the woman are sinners. However, the willingness of the woman to acknowledge her sin and unworthiness makes her the one able to receive the marvelous grace Jesus offers. The Pharisee, caught up in his own self-righteousness, fooled himself into thinking he was better than other people. He was unwilling to admit that he was a sinner in need of God’s mercy. As a result, he was unable to experience the grace and forgiveness that are found through Jesus. The real sinner, the one who was in danger of facing God’s wrath, was the not the prostitute, but the very devout, finger-pointing Pharisee.

Friend, do you think you are more honest, more moral, more kind, or nicer than other people around you? We all need to realize that everyone of us has, in some way, eaten another person’s cookies. We have sinned against both other people and God. Trusting in our own righteousness is a dead end that will get us into eternal trouble. Trusting in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is the only way to experience the grace and forgiveness we so desperately need.
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Dan Erickson