Posted in theology

Sin on the railroad tracks

By Elizabeth Prata

I read a thread on Twitter by CBS Los Angeles photojournalist John Schreiber about the issue of package pilfering on the railroad tracks. A picture sure is worth a thousand words. Here is the thread and Schreiber’s photos first, then I’ll discuss-

Thread by John Schreiber, photojournalist for CBS Los Angeles. @johnschreiber

Keep hearing of train burglaries in LA on the scanner so went to #LincolnHeights to see it all. And… there’s looted packages as far as the eye can see. Amazon packages, @UPS,  boxes, unused Covid tests, fishing lures, epi pens. Cargo containers left busted open on trains.

John Schreiber photo CBS

I’m told by law enforcement these @UPS bags are especially sought after by thieves opening cargo containers… they are often full of boxes with merchandise bound for residential addresses. More valuable than say, a cargo container full of low value bulky items like toilet paper.

This opened package from @REI destined for Bainbridge Island, WA was taken off a train. Typing in the @UPS tracking # and it obviously lists it as “delayed.” We found lots of opened packages bound for the Northwest along this section of tracks. As you can see, trains frequently slow or stop in this area as they get worked into the @UnionPacific  Intermodal facility  near Downtown LA. The thieves use this opportunity to break open containers and take what’s inside. I’d say every 4th or 5th rail car had opened containers.

John Schreiber photo CBS LA

Missing a package? Shipment delayed? Maybe your package is among the thousands we found discarded along the tracks. This is but one area thieves have targeted trains. We were told this area was just cleaned up 30 days ago so what you see is all within the last month.  @CBSLA

Responsibility for policing the railroad right of way falls on Union Pacific Police… not local agencies like LAPD. We did see Union Pacific police chasing two people today off the tracks and keeping an eye on things. ——end thread—–

I was startled to see the magnitude of the problem. Once you see all those packages…the scale of the problem that police have to deal with…I’m sure it’s tempting for Railroad officials, security guards, or police to just give up. How can you hold back a tsunami wave with your hands? Can’t.

We see mobs of looters en masse storming stores, and there is nothing the store owner can do about it, there are just too many people stealing. It’s literally a mob scene.

The same with porch pirates. These are people who go around neighborhoods during the day when homeowners are presumably at work, walking up to porches and stealing a delivered package, bold as brass. There was a porch pirate recently in our county that the owner’s surveillance camera caught. The police put out a call on Facebook for anyone to identify the thief. And since this is a small community and everyone knows everyone, they did. But it was shocking because there isn’t a lot of crime in our county. A couple of weeks ago the local hardware store was broken into, and that was startling. The thieves took a lot of stuff. Now we have porch pirates here too.

But the Los Angeles train thieves really got to me. I receive a lot of packages. It’s my preferred way to shop. I had bought a secure locker to put at my front door and now I’m glad I did. Packages are hidden from view and secured during the day. As I looked in wonder and sadness at all the packages pilfered, destroyed, or stolen, laying abandoned on the soggy ground, I shook my head. I know the eagerness with which I look forward to a package coming in. I know the careful selections I make, mindful of the budget. If I spend money on a package it’s for a reason. Losing that package means money I don’t have nor the item I’d spent it for. It would be a blow to my budget.

Every one of those packages destroyed represents a broken heart or an upset mind, an owner having to spend time searching out what happened, a delay in something important. Maybe it’s a computer part the at-home worker needed. Or something for the baby. Or a part for their broken down car. Epi pens! People need those!

But more than that, even, is the sin that each one of those packages represents. In one small location in one city in the entire world, we see the magnitude of sin. Thievery is a sin. Thieves are sinning. They felt no compunction to go into someone else’s property and take what was not theirs.

God said, “You shall not steal“. (Exodus 10:15). It’s the eighth commandment. In addition to Exodus, our LORD spends time and ink in Deuteronomy and Leviticus explaining the consequences of stealing. They aren’t good.

The scale of the issue there in LA (and I’m sure elsewhere too) indicates to me a massive amount of people without a conscience. It also is an indicator, one among many others, of what happens when God abandons a nation. God is long-suffering with our sin, but He isn’t endlessly suffering. When the sins have piled up enough, He takes action. He did against Sodom/Gomorrah/Admah/Zeboiim. (Genesis 18:20). He did when the Amorites’ sin had reached full measure. (Genesis 15:16). He abandoned the Pharisees due to their hardness of heart. (Matthew 15:14). He abandoned Israel. (not permanently. Hosea 4:17).

Psalm 81:11-12 says, “But My people would not listen to Me, and Israel would not obey Me. So I gave them up to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.”

When God allows you to go your own way it’s terrible. Why? You are in your sins. The wages of sin is death. You muck about in the mud in your sins like the Prodigal Son. You wallow in your own pollution, eating garbage. If you die you are eternally punished for those unforgiven sins. If God is abandoning a whole nation, as indications are He has abandoned the United States, the tsunami wave of sins will come against everyone, even the righteous. We saw that in Genesis 18 as Abraham took up for whoever there might be in Sodom who was righteous – even if there was only 10. It’s hard when the righteous are dwelling with sinners who only pursue sin harder and harder.

When God abandons a nation it is “a massive moral disaster”, John MacArthur said. Romans 1:18-32 outlines the progression of a culture as it is gradually given over to its sins. It ends with a futile mind. They can’t see reality. They don’t understand wisdom. Human wisdom is useless to solve anything. Add to that the fact that we know satan has blinded their minds. It’s a compounding blindness, MacArthur teaches. “And then you add the fact that they are blinded by virtue of the sweeping, dominating elements of their culture” and you have depraved minds that think futilely.

Romans 1:28 outlines the end result: God gives them over to a depraved mind.

A depraved mind (in the original language) is one that’s tested and found useless; therefore, disqualified for its intended use. The reasoning faculty has been corrupted by the influences that surround it. … A depraved mind, reasoning faculty so corrupt that it must be rejected as non-functioning. ~MacArthur

And that is where we are. People scuttle to the RR tracks to steal in broad daylight. They evade law enforcement and run away, only to return soon after. They have no conscience.

Widespread homosexuality in any culture is a dire indicator that God has abandoned it. It is another indicator as per Romans 1 that God has abandoned a nation or a culture.

Michael Spangler @spanglermt wrote on Twitter today,

“Lies we tell about homosexuality: 1. It’s just another sin. No, it’s God’s solemn judgment upon unbelief and idolatry, and a grave perversion of nature (Rom. 1:25-27), an abomination (Lev. 18:22), and a sign that total destruction is not far off (Jude 7).”

Is a more active judgment not far off for America? Only God knows, but it seems likely. As we see in biblical examples, once the outcry of wickedness has reached its full measure, God renders a more active form of wrath in judgment. Instead of abandonment, He will directly judge.

We remember we are not of this culture. We are of a different kingdom, (John 18:36). We are members of a pure and holy kingdom of righteous people made holy by Christ’s death and resurrection, His shed blood and imputed righteousness transferred us forgiven sinners.. His culture is one of peace, holiness.

for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17).

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9).

As much as it might grieve us to see the rising sin all around, as much as we’re tormented by our own sin and others’, as hard as it is to see these things happen in our community, we remember we have a future of brightness and holiness in marvelous light. We have a king who is perfect, gracious, loving, and attentive. We have ability due to the Holy Spirit in us to grow in righteousness even as the darkness all around darkens day by day.

The more those packages represent sin, the more we can redouble our efforts in our sanctifying walk to be the Light on a hill, not hidden under a bushel. Be bright for Jesus in His holy light, because He lived the darkness and separation and died for us. He rose again and gave us a charge: be the light. Be good. Be holy. Be ambassadors. Be witnesses. The people performing all these sins need us.

And then one fine day, we will be swept up…and we will see Him and be in sin no more. All this will be forgotten.

Hang on, saints. Hang on.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

2 thoughts on “Sin on the railroad tracks

  1. Yes, this is an utter disaster. I live in Orange County just 50 or so miles south of Los Angeles. I couldn’t believe these photos in our local newspaper. Also a friend just had a very expensive package stolen from their porch. Greed? Poverty? No consideration of our fellow man? Sin, anyway you portray it. Thanks for the heads-up warnings.


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