Shopping with Father Jones: Priest Supports Faithful Turning to Five-Finger Discount

Father Tim Jones, 41, (on the right) surprised his congregation this month with a novel holiday sermon in which he advised poor people to go out and shoplift. Jones reportedly stopped his sermon at St. Lawrence Church in York to give the divine endorsement for the five-finger discount. The clergy is not amused.

Jones reportedly stated:

“I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither. I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices. I would ask them not to take any more than they need. I offer the advice with a heavy heart. Let my words not be misrepresented as a simplistic call for people to shoplift. . . . The strong temptation is to burgle or rob people – family, friends, neighbours, strangers. Others are tempted towards prostitution, a nightmare world of degradation and abuse for all concerned. Others are tempted towards suicide. Instead, I would rather that they shoplift. The life of the poor in modern Britain is a constant struggle, a minefield of competing opportunities, competing responsibilities, obligations and requirements, a constant effort to achieve the impossible. For many at the bottom of our social ladder, lawful, honest life can sometimes seem to be an apparent impossibility.”” A heavy heart and light finger.

Jones insisted to critics that his encouragement to shoplift does not break the Bible commandment “Thou shalt not steal” because God’s love for the poor outweighs his love for the rich.

“My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift. I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither. I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices. I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need. I offer the advice with a heavy heart and wish society would recognise that bureaucratic ineptitude and systematic delay has created an invitation and incentive to crime for people struggling to cope.”

The police and the British Retail Consortium and a local MP take a different view. A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: ‘First and foremost, shoplifting is a criminal offence and to justify this course of action under any circumstances is highly irresponsible.”

Jones previously attracted national attention in May 2008 by forcing a shop to stop selling Playboy stationery aimed at youngsters as “cynical and wicked.”

Still, the encouragement to commit a crime is a bit new from the pulpit. The Bible left out that part of the story when Jesus helping himself to a few pieces of bling bling when throwing out the shop keepers from the Temple.

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30 thoughts on “Shopping with Father Jones: Priest Supports Faithful Turning to Five-Finger Discount”

  1. Priests don’t profess to believe in biblical inerrancy so the bible could be irrelevant in this case.

  2. Sally,

    Does that mean that you also believe the laws against homosexuality mentioned in the same place, apply only to the Israelites?

    Also, parts of your rule book are in contradiction with each other. There is no exceptional circumstances allowed by the 8th commandment as it is written, not even for Jesus, yet you now find an exception from a different part of the rule book. I believe others mentioned yet another exception, love thy neighbor as thy self. So which of these rules takes precedence? They are all from god, how did you determine that the exception you sited was allowed to supersede the 8th commandment? God did not allow Jesus an exception, why do you?

  3. Jill–

    Matthew 21:12-13
    Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them,” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”

    The temple was God’s house, the home of Jesus’ Father. Jesus had authority there. He had the right to chase unwanted cheaters out of his Father’s house. It was his house, too. Just as our parents have the right to ask misbehaving guests to leave their home, Jesus had the authority to eject people from his Father’s house. His actions were based on his position, which is exactly what the Pharisees and others were challenging him on.

    I am not forbidden to eat pork. Nor touch a football, although I am not much of a football player really! If you read Leviticus ch.11, it lists the dietary restrictions God gave to the nation of Israel. The dietary laws included prohibitions against eating pork, shrimp, shellfish and many types of seafood, most insects, scavenger birds, and various other animals. The dietary rules were never intended to apply to anyone other than the Israelites. The purpose of the food laws was to make the Israelites distinct from all other nations. After this purpose had ended, Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19).

  4. Sally, when Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers, wasn’t he destroying and stealing their property? They probably lost some coins in the midst of his actions, thus Jesus was himself a thief.

    You are a religious person, so you take your ethics from a rule book that I’m certain you pick and choose from. I suspect you have committed abominations like touching a football and eating pork. As long as you’re picking and choosing which rules you will follow, you are the one making that decision not to follow god on some things, and to follow god on others.

    District 9 is one of the best films I know depicting what it means to be poor, outcast and desperate, while those who have what the need sit in implacable judgment, unmoved by suffering created, not by the desperate, but by the richest of society. That is, until it happens to them.

  5. “I’ve always viewed the Ten Commandments as God’s advice to man on how to live a rewarding life.”


    Not sure what version you mean (Deuteronomy 5:6–21 or Exodus 20:2–17) but not really sure if the follow passage means a rewarding life, especially for your kids and grandkids and great-grandkids:

    “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,….”

    Exodus 20:5

  6. I’ve always viewed the Ten Commandments as God’s advice to man on how to live a rewarding life. Follow the ten and live without regret. Surely, when the advice was handed down, there were plenty of starving people roaming the planet. Thou shalt not steal … except if hungry or in need? That’s not the way it’s written.

    However, when Jesus was questioned by the Scribes and asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?” He said, “The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk.12: 29-31)

    How do we judge someone who steals in order to feed himself or his family? We apply Jesus’s second commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    It would seem to me that if someone is driven to steal to feed himself or his family then we, as his neighbor, have failed to love him as we love ourself because we have failed to see his need and meet it as we would for ourselves. Not enough shelters … empty food banks …those are all our failures to love our neighbor as ourselves and if one is going to judge the hungry man for stealing then one must also be aware of the words:
    “Judge not, lest thee be judged.”(Matthew 7:1-5)

    I am going to come down on the side of the preacher for, in my judgement, he spoke truly. “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9)

  7. lottakatz:

    “I’m not prepared to fault this pastor ….”


    Respectfully, I am. What you are seeing is the other side of the trepidatious seesaw that religion teeters on by holding that somehow god’s law (as it sees fit to interpret it) trumps the laws of society. While the sentiment is beneficent, it is equally wrong as contrary to the Rule of Law.

  8. We argue here often about the religious and their attributes. Many of us condemn them for being deluded, out of touch with reality and hypocrites for their refusal to view the world as it is and act accordingly. I’m not prepared to fault this pastor for being one of the few in the religious community (IMO) that’s an exception to the rule. From the fullness of his statement I can only wonder what kind of pain he sees in his congregation.

  9. For years now, people in my area have been advised to shoplift over the winter so they would be arrested, because at least in jail they would get food, warmth, and a roof over their head. This is because we don’t have enough homeless shelters to feed and house the number of people who need help. Our food banks are empty. Sally, the churches, synagogue, temple and mosque here can’t keep up with the need. People are asking and have to be turned away. I understand exactly what the Father is saying.

    The real criminals remain at large, many in charge of our govt. These people should be in jail and their illegal earnings confiscated to repay those whom they robbed. I wish Father would preach against those who rob with a pen because they are the reason he is advising people to shoplift.

    Does anyone here really believe that millions more people all of a sudden decided to become lazy thiefs? Think again. Where does that unemployment rate come from? Small business owners are the real driving engine of our economy. They are the people who hire and they are being forced to close due to lack of credit. That credit was supposed to be one condition of taking the giftbasket from the taxpayers. Another condition was refinancing home loans. Instead families are kicked to the curb and the small business owner lies in ruin. There are people near here taking their last paycheck to certain casinos, losing all their money, and jumping off the roof to kill themselves. That is almost a once a day occurrence.

    This should enrage us, not a Father telling people to do what they have to for survival and to make certain they are not hurting others. Because this is such a classist society as is the UK we refuse to see the systemic causes of things and continue to blame the wrong people. The people who brought down this economy are instead, worshiped and adored, admired and excused while their victims are reviled. Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple and embraced the outcast of society. Anyone who is a Christian ought to do the same and those of us who are not should know an ethical act when we see it and do the same.

  10. Swarthmore mom:

    If people would just ask for help, people would give it. Theft bothers me, as I feel that it’s a selfish act, with no regard as to how it will affect others.

    Every year, my husband and I grow a garden. The past two years, two very low income families have come to us, asking to take some veggies from our garden and grapes from our vines. I have gladly let them, getting nothing from them except for extreme gratitude.

    I don’t mind giving someone in need something that they need. I do however, have a problem with someone taking something from me without asking.

  11. The priest is instructing these people on how to survive with doing the least amount of harm. It is definitely unconventional, but I understand where he is coming from.

  12. “Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do these abominations? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” declares the LORD.”

    ~Jeremiah 7:9-ll

    A little out of context, but it makes the point I think.

  13. Where the Hell do I sign up to attend sermons of his on the internet. I knew the bible as written was really misquoting the original text. It is impossible to translate accurately so interpretations and dogma prevail….

    Like here:

    ‘Thou Shalt Commit Adultery’ (Exod. 20:14, AV 1631): A First Survey of Alteration Involving Negatives in the Transmission of the Greek New Testament and of Early Church Responses to it.

    And you think I am kidding……

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