Replacing “Smash and Grab” with “Taste and See”

Replacing “Smash and Grab” with “Taste and See”

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“I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:11, ESV


“The end of all moral speculations is to teach us our duty; and, by proper representations of the deformity of vice and the beauty of virtue, beget correspondent habits, and engage us to avoid the one, embrace the other,” says David Hume (1711-1776), the Scottish philosopher and historian. (1) His words certainly resonate with many of us who were exposed to these types of virtuous ideas in both public school civics classes and in church.
That era has long since passed. Perhaps you have been surprised, as I have been, to watch on television news reports the groups of teens committing aggravated robberies in broad daylight. Eight such robberies were conducted in Dallas, Texas, in the month of May. Similar criminal acts have been committed by gangs of teens in cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, and London. The crimes have been labeled “smash and grabs.” Federal authorities and retailers are now sounding the alarm about this type of retail crime. Organized crime groups and even drug cartels are typically behind these offenses, and the online re-sale of stolen goods is the usual path lawbreakers use to turn a profit.

Or maybe you have read of a new trend that is sweeping social media platforms. Young women are denigrating the marriage institution while promoting the virtues of a single lifestyle. These videos celebrate being “free to drink, go to Beyonce shows, sleep in, and watch reality TV.” They state that such a life would not be possible if they were required to take care of a husband and kids. Such a view causes me to wonder how one compares the pleasures of food and concerts with marital relationships and children? Both options are life choices with radically different benefits.
So, what has become of moral virtue?
Such brazen lawlessness, on the one hand, and selfishness, on the other hand, is symptomatic of what Dallas Willard characterized as a lack of moral awareness. The Christian philosopher, prior to his death, decried the loss of moral knowledge, and not just among Gen Z (young adults born from 1997 onward). He wrote to awaken the English-speaking world to the need for a moral foundation.
Willard writes that morality involves “characteristic responses at the most concrete and constant levels of human relations” (Willard, The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge, 343). He believes that there should be “characteristic ways” in which people and groups should behave. It is written in the very origins of our terminology, “ethics” and “ethical,” “morals” and “moral.” The terms simply refer to customs, conduct, motives, or character which a culture determines to be “good, desirable, right, obligatory, worthy,” etc. (Willard, 343).
A tragic smash and grab robbery over some power tools left an elderly Home Depot store employee critically injured when the thief knocked him to the floor. The man struck his head and died later in the hospital. One wonders how we might compare quantitatively the value of power tools and a grandfather’s relationship with his grandchildren? Certainly, Christians believe that life is intrinsically valuable in contrast to the extrinsic (secondary) value of a power tool!
Certainly, David Hume was on to something when he wrote, “What is becoming honorable, what is fair, what is noble, what is generous, takes possession of the heart, and animates us to embrace and maintain it.” (2) However, something more than moral knowledge and instruction is needed. I believe that the notable philosopher leaves us short unless the heart is transformed by Christ. Christians know the source of such a moral transformation.
A way forward: Moral awareness and action are choices
First, a life of peace (holistic flourishing) requires choosing that which is honorable. Consider the Apostle Paul’s words to the church at Philippi: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9, ESV).
Read the various choice-laden exhortations that Paul makes in 4:1-11: “to steadfastness (4:1), to unity (4:2-3), to joy and peace (4:4-7), and to proper outlook (4:8-9)” (NAC). Verses 8-9 are linked to verses 4-7 and unite beneath a rubric of peace. So, Paul writes that the peace of God will sustain Christians in hardship (4:7), and in verse 9 he writes that the result of a proper thought life (4:8) will be the presence of the God of peace (NAC).
Secondly, we will see that the God of peace arrives in such circumstances when we cultivate the proper environment. We, the church, choose collectively to focus our attention on these matters (4:8) and God will rule in them (read “transform our lives”). Then, individual Christians were to live their lives in the same way. Does this make sense? Self-driving cars are here to stay, but this passage reminds us that we are to place our hands on the wheel of choice each day and steer toward these goals!
Thirdly, there are two lists in verses 8-9 and each is governed by a verb: “think about such things” (v. 8) and “put into practice” (v. 9). Simple enough. Regarding the former verb, we are to count on these things, meaning we are to chart our daily course according to them. By using these two verbs, Paul combines the mental and the ethical concerns of his Jewish background with Christian thought (NAC). Knowledge would lead to Christian living.
In response to Ancient Greek philosophical thinking, and centuries before David Hume, the Apostle writes that there are seven qualities that characterize Christian thinking: true (ethical sense of truthfulness, dependability), noble (worthy of respect, honor), right (i.e. just, giving God and humans a justness that they deserve), pure (holy in relation to God), lovely (be lovable; be that which calls forth love), admirable (praiseworthy), excellent (morally excellent) and praiseworthy (worthy of praising God). These characteristics would unite the church and provide the world with a powerful testimony.
Finally, Paul turns toward the application of these characteristics and calls the church to practice what he lived out before them (4:9). He wanted them to use him as a model for effective Christian living. He assures them that God’s peace will reside in those who have “ordered their lives in accordance with God’s will” (4:9; NAC). We should learn and apply his words to our own lives.


The CEO of Home Depot, where many of the brazen thefts are occurring, has resigned himself to the fact that the billions of dollars in losses will continue until laws are enacted and other safety precautions are taken. Of course, law-abiding consumers pay for the losses in higher prices for the items they purchase. Laws and more stringent security will not deter the crimes being committed. Surely, the scriptures offer us a better way.
Paul teaches us the cultural significance of a proper moral foundation. Therefore, I am mindful that “smash and grab” will remain the cultural norm until there is more “taste and see” that the Lord is “good” (Psalm 34:8; 1 Peter 2:1-3). Such a choice flows into “I urge you to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul . . . Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” (1 Peter 2:11-12a).

Prayerfully yours,
Larry C. Ashlock
1. Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. See also Dallas Willard, The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge, p. 2.

2. Ibid.