As Abba Agathon and his disciple were returning to their cell one day, the young man found a green bean on the road.
“May I take it, Abba?” he asked the elder.
“Did you perhaps put it there yourself?”
“Ah, then how is it that you think you can take it?”
This is one of those Sayings that make me rethink what I take for granted. For instance, if I saw something lying on the ground, I might not think twice about picking it up, let alone asking permission to do so. Decades ago a friend of mine found a brown paper bag in the middle of the street which contained $5,000.00. He turned it into the police and thirty days later when it was still unclaimed, the police gave it to him and he used it to pay for seminary. Had my friend asked Abba Agathon if he could pick it up, Agathon would have asked him if had been his in the first place and my friend would have had to say “no.”
A green bean is an inconsequential thing. I suspect this was some sort of legume and not a string bean. A legume could easily have fallen out of bag or pack. The point, though, is that the bean did not belong to the disciple. Had he picked it up, he would have taken what was not his. The commandment says we are not to steal.