A person who through evil influence and who for want of the knowledge of God is guilty of theft, may obtain the mercy of God if he proves to be genuinely repentant. But for a robber who scorns God’s warning or who is unrepentant there is NO forgiveness in this world or in that which is to come. Therefore, any thief who has the opportunity to repent and serve God but fails to do so, will CERTAINLY NOT BE SAVED IN GOD`S KINGDOM.
Theft is defined as the taking and carrying away of the property of another person without his consent and with intent to deprive the owner of the use and benefit of it.
Ancient records are replete with incidents of theft, and so it is a crime that dates from antiquity. But with the increase of knowledge in this our age and the invention of lethal weapons, which science and technology have made available even to lunatics, the crime of stealing has assumed more dangerous dimensions.
There are thieves in every country, and they always constitute a menace to the happiness and peace of law-abiding people in any community. There had been cases of stealing, burglary or robbery in this country as in other parts of the world in time past but of late they have been so rampant and the methods and weapons employed by thieves so sophisticated that the people are really frightened. It is fear and excitement that engendered public outcry for the execution of armed robbers in this country.
As the robbers continued to intensify their anti-social, ungodly activities, it became necessary that the Federal Military Government should take stern measures to stern the tide of robbery. The Robbery and Fire-arms (Special Provisions) Decree was promulgated in 1970, stipulating that any person found guilty of armed robbery as defined under the Decree could be executed in public. Since then executions of armed robbers have been taking place in different parts of the county.
However, for some time now the execution of armed robbers has become a subject about which different opinions have been expressed. There are those who are in favour of its continuation but some others take the opposite view. On our part we are concerned with religious aspect of the matter. We are therefore treating this subject purely against the background of the Holy Scriptures.
We have noticed that on most occasions, if not all, when armed robbers are to face the firing squads certain clergymen, as reported, do perform certain rites during which they bless the robbers. Recently the Daily Times (August 9, 1971) reported that at Port Harcourt, as a condemned robber stood a few moments from execution, a clergyman offers prayers for forgiveness of confessed sins. “Make your peace with God now, the Pastor gently urged.”
This is just an act of sanctimoniousness the propriety and spiritual merits of which, from a scriptural point of view, is open to question. Some of the robbers and even some other people may have the wrong notion that such clerical prayers or blessings would make the robbers enter the Kingdom of God.
On Saturday July 17, 1971, the execution of two robbers as reported by the SundaySketch(July 18, 1971) took place at Ibadan, capital of Western State. One of them was alleged to have told his fellow robber, “If we meet in heaven it will be a better world, and if we come to this world again, we shall know how to play our cards.”
That the robber made the utterance out of ignorance there is no doubt. Heaven is not a place for thieves, not even the earth in God’s Kingdom! Every thief should therefore take warning from this. The utmost he can do in his own interest if he wants the mercy of God is to desist forthwith out of real contrition from stealing otherwise his deathbed repentance or prayer will be of no avail.
Some people make reference to one of the malefactors who were crucified with Jesus as a “good” thief and say that he was taken to heaven. The facts are recorded at Luke 23:39-43. We agree that thief unlike his fellow robber was penitent and Christ’s utterance shows the extent of grace bestowed on him which he shall enjoy but on Resurrection Day in God’s Kingdom on earth. (Matthew 5:5; 6: 9, 10) And so to say that he is in heaven is false being unscriptural. We shall go into details when next we take this as a subject in a subsequent issue of the Advocate.
As long ago as the days of Moses the prophet in Israel, God Almighty gave in plain language this law: “THOU SHALT NOT STEAL” (Exodus 20:15; Leviticus 19:10) The law is against any kind of stealing, pilfering, picking of pocket, fraud, embezzlement, burglary, shoplifting, highway robbery and so on.
Jesus Christ, during his earthly ministry confirmed the law. It is therefore binding on Christians. Someone came up to him and asked: “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" He replied: “But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which?” the man further asked, Jesus then said: “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, THOU SHALT NOT STEAL…” - Read Matthew 19:16-19
Jesus himself said that the laws of God hang on love - the love of God and that of one’s neighbour. (Matthew 22:35-40) So stealing is a clear manifestation of lack of love. St. Paul said: “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” – Romans 13:9, 10
In the days of old certain principles were set out to guide the judges in Israel in dealing with cases of theft. Sometimes thieves were made to restore double, fourfold or fivefold what they stole. If a thief was detected in the night endeavouring forcibly to break into a house and, in repelling his assault he was killed there was no case of murder; but if the thief was slain after sunrise the killer was punishable because it would have been possible for the robber to make full restitution. Thus it is written: “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.” - Exodus 22:1-4
The penalty for a person found guilty of stealing his fellow-man and trading on him was death. - Deuteronomy 24:7
There is no blessing whatsoever in stealing. Whatever wealth anyone acquires through robbery is under course. Concerning robbers it is written: “For they know not to do right, saith the LORD, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled.” - Amos 3:10, 11
As regards the curse of thieves and false swearers, Zechariah the prophet recorded a message he received from God thus: “Then said He unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be put off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it. I will bring it forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name, and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.” - Zechariah 5:3, 4
Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ stated categorically that no thief will inherit the Kingdom of God. He wrote: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind (homosexuals), nor THIEVES, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God.” (1Corinthians 6:9, 10) It can be clearly seen here that it is not only unrepentant thieves that are cursed but adulterers, drunkards, homosexuals are also cursed. But a thief like any other sinner can repent as to obtain the mercy of God and lead a clean life. And so St. Paul having seen that in some Corinthian Christians added: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” - Verse11
A Passionate Appeal to Robbers
We therefore appeal most passionately to all thieves in this country and elsewhere to refrain from this dirty and deadly game of stealing or robbery - more so with violence. God and Jesus Christ are against you. The Government and all men of goodwill are against you. You also know that you are doing an evil work - that you are wicked and your hearts condemn you - and that is why you hide not wanting to be caught. John the apostle stated: “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemns us not, then have we confidence toward God.” - 1 John 3:20, 21
You might have been pushed into this obnoxious crime of robbery by circumstances of hardship or unemployment; may be you have lust for riches - you want to be like Chief A or Mr. B who is in control of money and you consider stealing to be a short cut to your goal of carnal desires; or you may be a victim of evil communication through bad company. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Which ever circumstance is your case, satan the devil is your inspirer leading you to certain destruction. Whoever is a child of God must resist such temptation and He will bless him. - James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 4:8-10
We take this opportunity to recall the words of a certain young man said to be a product of a Government College, who was executed publicly in the East Central State as reported in the Nigeria Observer of July 21, 1970. The robber was quoted as saying, “I was induced to commit these crimes by bad company and dishonest friends, including a woman. Now I have fallen a victim because I failed to honour the words of my parents. Other boys of my age, below and above, should get themselves warned.”
Thieves, please take note of this: God loves you and will not want you to fall into the trap of satan and his agents who would always entice you with carnal things. And so God through King Solomon gives this wise candid advice: “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: we shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: cast in thy lot among us; let us; all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: for their feet rum to evil, and make haste to shed blood… So are the way of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.” - Proverbs 1:10-19
If you are stubborn and will refuse to pay heed to this godly admonition you will have yourself to blame because you stand to lose even your life in the end. The Bible states: “The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.” (Proverbs 21:7) Again King Solomon said: “Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not.’’ - Proverbs 29:24
If you postpone your repentance to tomorrow you may die before then – and that without mercy. It may be your aim not to continue in the crime throughout your life-time but to stop, maybe, after you may have acquired some amount of “wealth” you have set as your target. We assure you that you are being incensed by satan to continue in sin and be the enemy of God and men to your own hurt. You may not live to enjoy the “wealth” you are craving for and so in the long run you gain nothing, RATHER YOU LOSE EVERY THING!
You have a lesson to learn from the experience of a certain robber who was executed at Ibadan on July 17, 1971. The Daily Sketch (July 19, 1971) reported that the robber had saved £5,000 two months before the time he committed the crime for which he died. The robber was quoted as saying. “I have now been able to save up to £5,000 out of the £10,000 I need before I give up this business.” You can see how the very devil has made a fool of him, and he died without a good name. Can he make use of the ill-gotten savings of £5,000 now that he is gone into the grave? Certainly not.
There is no reason why anyone should continue in this business of robbery. You may muster devilish courage as to be prepared to die. Your parents, your wives, children or loving friends would not want to lose you - no, not with the stigma of robbery! You must think on these things and on the fact that even after your death the reproach remains in your family. And St. Peter admonished: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a THIEF, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody….” 1 Peter 4:15
Moreover, the execution is not the end. That is the punishment of the Government of the land. More serious is God’s judgment and punishment you will still face at the resurrection. Said St. Paul: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” - 2 Corinthians 5:10
In Daniel 12:2, 3, it is written: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” And Jesus Christ declared: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil (like stealing), unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28, 29) Before such condemnation there will be judgment. – Hebrews 9:27
If you refuse to take warning and die as a robber shame and contempt will be your lot. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God.” “For our God is a consuming fire.” - Hebrews10:31; 12:29
Robbers, what then does God require of you? IT IS REPENTANCE NOW! God has said: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die…” (Ezekiel 33:11) And the prophet Isaiah stated: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” – Isaiah 55:7