IDS and the Tesco shoplifter

Iain Duncan Smith MP – former Conservative party leader – has resigned from his post as Work and Pensions Secretary in the British cabinet this week, following Wednesday’s Budget. He denounced £4bn of planned cuts to disability benefits as “indefensible”. Even though a past report had shown that one of the benefits in question was, in many cases, paying out more than was needed, for him these latest cuts were the last straw.


According to the BBC, “Iain Duncan Smith discovered the Chancellor planned to offer cuts in Capital Gains Tax and was very unhappy that those tax cuts were to be offered to the better off, while he had been forced to make more welfare cuts prematurely, in his view … Iain Duncan Smith is understood to have said that the government “can’t keep taking money from the working poor … He also complained of pressure to “salami slice” welfare, saying the latest cuts were a “compromise too far” in a Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers. ” (

This issue cuts to the heart of how we treat those who are physically and financially worse-off in our society. Jesus once said, “The poor you will always have with you,” (Matthew 26:11). So do we just leave it to the government, or do we do what we can ourselves to alleviate the sufferings of others?

On the same day we heard about the surprise resignation of IDS, the story also came to light of someone who took the initiative to help a starving family in a surprising way.

I will let Andy Wells, who originally posted the news on Tumblr, tell the story: “A dad-of-three who was caught shoplifting food from a Tesco store in Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia, was stunned when instead of calling the police, the store gave him a job.

“The anonymous 31-year-old was stopped by security at the store, who discovered around £5 worth of food on him. But rather than call the police, store manager Radzuan Ma’asan decided to give the man some money and a job so that he could feed his children without having to resort to stealing.

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Radzuan Ma’asan – store general manager. (Pic: CEN)

“He said: “The man’s situation really touched our hearts. We visited his relative’s house. It was so empty and poor. He was not a regular thief. When we questioned him, he immediately confessed, saying that he stole the fruits and drinks because his son was hungry. In my 23 years of experience in the retail line, I had never come across thieves who admitted to their crime so easily.”

“The man was struggling to make ends meet after quitting his job when his wife fell into a coma while she was giving birth. He had attempted to take some fruit and drink for his young children before being stopped by security.

Tesco has yet to decide what type of job to offer the man, but have already given him money to help cover his current expenses – including enrolling his son into school.”

This, to me, is a real good news story, and a 21st Century example of what Jesus would probably have done in that situation. When we see someone in trouble, are we quick to point the finger or are we willing to explore the roots of the problem? We can help each other in our society if we try, and many do – if only all those in authority were quick to do the same.