The U.S. Federal Trade Commission reports that for the last four years identity theft has been at the top of the list of consumer complaints, and it appears to be growing. Approximately 10 million mostly American consumers have discovered that their personal information has been intentionally used to open fraudulent accounts.
That's not a pleasant thought, to put it mildly, and anyone who has had their personal information lost or stolen knows how complex recovery can be. But even worse than that is the fear, the feeling of one's personal data being violated and vulnerable to misuse.
Prayer to God helps remove the fear, because it opens up a deeper understanding of spiritual identity. This identity comes to us from God; it's permanent and secure. Each individual has his or her own special way of expressing God's qualities, and that can't be taken from us.
There's an account in the Bible that has insights relevant to the present issue of identity theft. It's about a set of twins, Esau and Jacob. Esau arrived on the scene first, so he was technically the older one – the one to whom belonged both the birthright and its blessing. When they were young men, one day Esau came in famished from hard work, and Jacob convinced him to sell him his birthright in return for food. Esau consented, unaware of the full ramifications of this move until later.
With help from his mother, Jacob then deceived his father, Isaac, who was partially blind, by tricking him into thinking that he was Esau. Jacob got Isaac to give him the blessing that accompanied the birthright. Imagine Esau's anger when he realized that he'd sold his claim to succeed his father's position in the household and lost his inheritance. After mulling over all this, Esau resolved to kill Jacob after their father died. But, again with the help of his mother, Jacob fled to a distant relative.
Years after Jacob had left the country, his spiritual identity awakened in him. Through what he was learning as a man with a family and responsibilities, he began to hear God's guidance, telling him in no uncertain terms: "Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee" (Gen. 31:3).
Not long before he met Esau once more, Jacob spent a night wrestling with himself and his fears, but finally received the blessing he needed. He returned home, meeting Esau and his 400 men on the way. But there was no settling of accounts with bloodshed, and both lives were spared.
The power and presence of God revealed to both Esau and Jacob that their identities were unscathed by the past and their futures were not ruined. Jacob's acceptance of his own spiritual identity and the relation to God that it included enabled him to be humble before his brother, and to recognize in his own way that Esau was also undiminished by the past. This brought healing.
Although today's answers may come in many different ways, it's still true that every man, woman, and child is made in God's image and likeness. Each one possesses all the qualities that belong to Love, Life, and Truth, such as honesty, joy, freedom, and intelligence.
Reasoning along these lines, our prayers can affirm that no one can be tempted to steal from another either through greed or through feelings of lack. God is able to take abundant care of each of His children so that all are satisfied.
These spiritual truths will be a strength and guide should it be necessary to protect one's financial records and other data. But the one thing we can be totally sure cannot be stolen is the unique nature that God has given to each of us. Our permanent and safe spiritual character – our only real being – is always intact and in God's hands. Trusting in this divine fact will remove fear and reveal answers that restore hope, compensate loss, and reinstate justice.