I have been reading the articles that are coming out now about the rioting in London and the UK. It saddens me that people are acting this way, and it further saddens me that the behavior is being excused by appealing to the disenfranchisement or the poverty of the rioters. There is, in the end, no excuse for this type of behavior when other means of protest are readily available.
I could easily write an article on why it is wrong for the people to behave as they have, but I hope that most people could think of a reason why they ought not be knocking through windows of privately owned stores and taking what they please from their fellow citizens. Instead, I want to prepare my children to be the type of person who would walk away from the mob and not go into the store and take what isn't theirs.
I read an article that a journalist wrote that had a snippet of a conversation that she overheard during the looting. Apparently, three young men were watching the riots, not participating, when one of them saw an opportunity to go into a store and take what they wanted. He tried to talk his friend into going down and getting themselves the loot. The article did not say how the young men decided. The conversation, however, reminded me of this:
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious good, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse.." (Proverbs 1:10-14).
I imagine that one of those young men watching the mayhem is my own son. I know that the pull of the chaos, the promise of free treasure, and the adrenaline that the thought that such an act would bring would be a powerful temptation for a young man. But the end of that behavior is death. It is madness to do what these people are doing. It is death, both physical and spiritual, to participate in that kind of wickedness.
My son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors (Proverbs 1:15-190).
People who break in to steal and destroy are more foolish than birds. A bird will avoid a trap it sees being set; these rioters are setting a trap for themselves. They will drive out business; they may be arrested; they may die. Inevitably, they will have to live with what they have done, they will have to deal with knowing that they brought hurt to many, including the death of some. For what? A television set? A bicycle?
Ultimately, God will judge the earth. He will judge between the wicked and the just. I pray that I will teach my son these lessons well so that he will not consent to walk with sinners. I am resolved to plead with him as the writer of proverbs pled with his son. I have lived long enough to know that the path of the wicked leads to destruction, but that righteousness leads to life.
Do you think that these looters were taught these things by their parents? Or did they teach them that their poverty gives them the right to strike out against "the man", even when "the man" is their neighbor who sells goods down the street.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.