It is common to see looting when natural disasters or social calamities occur. Based upon the number of incidents of this type of crime, many have formed a sense of justification for stealing—especially when the rule of law is absent.
One commentator, describing this attitude of looting during catastrophes, states, “Then one day disaster strikes – law and order break down. The structures of society around them collapse and no one cares what the other person is doing. In instances like this, personal morals and fear of the law disappear. Pent up emotions can rise to the top. An abnormal sense of entitlement and ‘group think’ takes over and people no longer feel guilty of taking what doesn’t belong to them” (“Why people loot after a disaster”, www.safetybasement.com).
In God’s eyes, theft of another’s property is absolutely unacceptable–so much so that it was one of the Ten Commandments given to Moses: “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). God didn’t mince His Words, the commandment was plain to read and understand.
While God allowed for restitution by those caught stealing He also gave dire warning to those who would do so as a means to satiate their desires, whether “justified” or not. “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep. If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed” (Exodus 22:1-2).
Some Korean shopkeepers staved off looting of their property during the 1992 Rodney King riots by arming themselves and guarding their stores. While some storeowners protected their property, an estimated 2300 Korean-owned stores in Los Angeles were burned or looted during the protests.
We are warned not to put our faith in treasures that are perishing: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal…” (Matthew 6:19). Christ instead instructs us to put our faith in things that are eternal, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).
Paul also reflected on the importance of the treasure we each possess, “…to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3). Everything that matters is built upon those two beings. They have given more than can ever be repaid so that we might share in their glory.
We must take on the same attitude of those shopkeepers in defending what really matters. Of course, we do not take up physical arms, but we must be engaged in a spiritual battle with wicked spirit beings in high places. We guard our spiritual existence from a beast that never stops attacking our spiritual fortifications. We need to cherish and protect what is truly lasting because our eternal life depends on it.