How should we think about Robin Hood’s ethics of robbing from the rich to give to the poor?
On the surface, Robin Hood is robbing the rich. Stop the sentence right there.
But what if the rich obtained their riches wrongfully, at the hands of the poor? Surely giving back to the poor what is rightfully theirs would not be wrong.
Good point, but we must also ask whether Robin Hood is authorized to do this act.
But what if those duly authorized are not doing their duty? Should not someone do something?
But Robin Hood is robbing. When do two wrongs make a right?
Well, even if Robin Hood is technically robbing, he does not keep the spoils for himself. He repeatedly gives them away. Why should we not respect such bravery and generosity?
I appreciate the sensitivity of students to this issue. They realize that both the situation and one’s personal perspective color how Robin Hood’s actions appear. Now, to gain perspective on all aspects of the situation, one must see it through faith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Most of these kinds of stories leave out God—and if there was no God, then perhaps we are left with nothing more than Robin Hood. However, vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19) and to the ones He has authorized to use it (Romans 13:1-4), i.e. the government. Ironically, by taking vengeance into his own hands, Robin Hood is robbing God!
Our job—our privilege, by faith—is to learn how to “overcome evil,” i.e. to defeat it, to conquer it, through doing good (like feeding an enemy—Romans 12:20-21). Interestingly, the memory verse from theology class (Ephesians 4:28) brings all the elements under discussion together: “steal no longer” (no stealing) and “performing with his own hands what is good” (doing good in labor) and “share with one who had need” (giving). This is exciting! What will God do to enable us to overcome evil with good? With God in the picture, Robin Hood could have sought God earnestly for His blessing on more honest work for giving. And if the government is not bringing judgment on the wicked, then we need to cry out to Him who “performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed,” as in the Exodus (Psalm 103:6). At any rate, we are warned in Romans 3:1-8 about doing evil that good may come. Returning evil for evil is not our place (Romans 12:17).
May the Lord bless us all with discernment and with the firm faith of love in Christ!