It all started when Matt Lima, a Somerset police officer, responded to a call at a local Stop & Shop five days before Christmas. Upon arrival, he was informed that two women had been caught skipping the scanner at the self-checkout line and putting several items straight into their bags.
He soon saw what the suspected shoplifters were with two young children. Realizing that all they were taking was essential food items, the officer was touched by their plight. He was moved even further when he learned that the mother of the kids had no job, and the food they were stealing was solely for their holiday dinner.
He therefore chose not arrest them. Instead, he bought a $250 gift card to pay for their Christmas dinner. Speaking afterward to local NBC affiliate WJAR, Lima stated, “I have two girls myself, similar in age to the two girls that were there, so it kind of struck me a little bit… There was nothing else in there, like health and beauty items, shampoo, anything like that. It was all food. I just tried to put myself in that family’s shoes and show a little bit of empathy.”
In the end, it seems that no charges were filed. Although, perhaps understandably, the store did issue the two women a “no trespass” order. Equally understandable, Officer Lima was lauded for his compassionate gesture. Somerset Police Chief George McNeil praised him in a statement, calling the incident “a true testament of Officer Lima’s great character and decision-making.”
For my part, I echo the sentiment of Chief McNeil, and likely most everyone else who learns of this episode. It was wise old King Solomon himself who, way back in the Old Testament book of Proverbs (chapter 6, verse 30) that “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry…” Something within our nature compels most of us to agree.
The really good news in this story is that it reflects the true spirit of the season in which it occurred. After all, what is Christmas about, if not grace being shown to those who are spiritually hungry?
Later, when the Christ Child of the Christmas narratives had reached maturity and begun His earthly ministry, the gospels tells us that He preached some forty sermons. In the first and most famous of these, often referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount”, He included these words: 3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled…”
Here, the One and Only Son of God is underscoring why Christmas ever happened to begin with. It was to show us that our Heavenly Father took note of our spiritually emptiness, and of just how desperate we were to fill the terrible void within ourselves. Knowing that all our attempts to do so were, at the very least, sadly temporary, and at the most, utterly futile, He chose not to punish us, but rather to come to our aid.
This He did through sending His One and Only Son into this world to purchase life for us, by paying the price for our sins on an old rugged cross, and then providing us life, eternal and abundant, as a result.
Are you spiritually hungry today? Are you so hungry that you are desperate to fill that void? Have you tried any and everything you know to find some way to satisfy and sustain your soul, all to no avail?
Then why not consider what the Lord now offers you. Come to His table, freely given, and taste and see that the Lord and His mercy are good, satisfying, and above all, life-giving! If you do, then you, hungry though you may have been, will also finally be filled!
Solomon’s father, King David, knew this. In Psalm 34 (verses 8-10), he testified: “8Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. 9Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. 10The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
Having discovered and suffered the terrible emptiness brought on by sin, David then found the grace of God and the great joy it brings. Satiated hunger and lacking no good thing! No wonder Jesus called being in such a state “blessed”!