Shoppers decimate shelves in a greedy feeding frenzy. What happened to, “Poor, but honest”?

by Dr. Foster H. Shannon

It was Saturday, 12 October that the electronic EBT system, (electronic benefit transfer cards) operated by Xerox for the Federal Government, broke down for several hours. During this period of time, Food Stamp Cards could not be used in seventeen states. In two Wal Mart stores in Louisiana, the company decided to remove any limits on the cards so that they could be used for needed food purchases. Many people in these two stores went into buying frenzies. They purchased things that they must have known full well were not allowed by the EBT, including television sets. One woman attempted to purchase $700.00 of food, when her card showed that she only had a valid 49 cents on it. Managers in Wal-Mart stores in Mansfield and Springhill, Louisiana called in police to stop people from loading up several carts with as many things as they could hold. It is reported that in stores, where the cards were temporarily left inoperable, people helped themselves to whatever they chose, and went out without paying. “Shelves were picked clean and went empty until stores were able to restock.” These people had to know that what they were doing was wrong, despite whatever inner excuses they may have given to themselves.

Probably at this point, someone is going to say, “Foster why are you picking on these poor people.” My answer is that the basic laws of life apply to all people. Regarding our relationship with our Lord, there is a reasonable question to ask: “What would you do if no one else were looking?” The Seventh Commandment states, “You shall not steal”. Do you think it is all right if someone steals your property? I know, this is different! The government has a lot of money—and, certainly, Wal Mart is not strapped for cash. The reasoning that would follow: if your economic status is above average or if you are a municipality, or the federal government—it is OK for people to steal!

It is time for us to reaffirm that we expect honesty of the rich, the middle- class and the poor.

You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall your judge your neighbor. (Leviticus 19:15)

To the degree that we lie and cheat and steal, we deprive someone else of something that rightfully belongs to them. Indeed, the victims may be those who pay taxes, and have their taxes raised to pay for the costs of thievery and dishonesty.

Hopefully, most of us believe in and prefer justice: that the laws of the land treat all people equally. To the degree that we cheat, steal, and lie, personal relationships break down, business operations can be seriously damaged or destroyed, and respect for governments can evaporate. In other words, the greater the disregard for the basic laws of society, the more likely that society will become dysfunctional and even disintegrate.

It is proper for each of us to take a look at ourselves, and make sure that we are committed to the laws of God, that are meant to keep us from harm and misery. It is also proper for us to be sympathetic with those who are truly poor and give to churches, World Vision, Salvation Army and other agencies.

Foster H. Shannon
Please contact Foster directly with any questions or comments at the following address:

Thank you.

More about Foster…

Foster H. Shannon, Brief Biographical Note

Dr. Foster Shannon received his degree from the University of California, Berkeley in Political Science, and went on to obtain a Master of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary, with emphasis on church growth.
The Interim Pastor of True Light Presbyterian Church in Alhambra, CA until recently, he is the author of seven books and a Sunday School curriculum. As the President of Green Leaf Press, a non-profit Christian publishing company, established in 1981, he publishes and markets Christian books with special emphasis on Bible Study, Church Growth, and Christian Evidences. The website is: He enjoys riding his bicycle and swimming weekly. He likes both classical and popular music. He roots for the CAL Bears and the Chicago Cubs.