Jul 27, 2008

Fifty-two cents buys two cups of gasoline...

In his epic novel, Les Miserables, Victor Hugo tells the tale of Jean Valjean. At the beginning of the story, Valjean has just been released from jail after 19 years. The crime? The first five years were for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's starving children. The last fourteen years were for numerous attempted escapes. After 19 years of prison he is released but is forever branded a criminal.


I was reminded of Valjean by a news account out of Naples, Florida. But this story isn't fiction. It's true. On Tuesday, Laszlo Mujzer was incarcerated. His crime? Stealing a loaf of bread? No, Laszlo took 52 cents from a mall fountain. A sign on the fountain states that all coins in the fountain are donated to Habitat for Humanity. Someone called the police who arrived on the scene and found Laszlo with only fifty two cents taken from the fountain. They placed him into jail with a $500 bond.


On the surface, this seems like a disproportionate action for such a small infraction of the law. An online poll shows a majority of people agree. On the Naples Daily News web site, an online poll showed only 14% of the people thought he should have been locked up. The remaining people either said he shouldn't have been locked up or they were unsure.


Now it is quite possible that there is more here than reported in the news account. The man could have been a menace to the shoppers and the only thing the police could nab him with was the petty theft. It's the Al Capone scenario. They couldn't get Al Capone on murder so they got him on tax evasion. I am also not blaming the police. They had to respond to the call and check it out. It's their job.


What bothers me about the story, though, is that I believe that Jesus would not have called the police. I believe Jesus would have shown more compassion. Jesus might have healed him. Jesus would not have thrown more salt in a wounded soul.


It's stories like this that make me wonder how many people in Vail are hurting like Laszlo. How many people in Vail have a broken spirit. Have we tried to help them? Or are we content with simply calling in someone else to deal with it.


God did not leave us with a broken spirit. He knew the only solution was to send Jesus into this world to pay off our debts. Because God showed compassion on us, our jail time is eliminated altogether. To Him be glory forever!



Pastor David Hook

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