Early in the first COVID lockdown, I had quickly publicly opposed the mandates, and in April 2020 someone criticized a post I made. The individual said that we should be doing our part to save society from COVID just as our ancestors did their part to save society from the Nazis in WWII. I took issue with that assertion and replied with a question: “What more resembles the Nazi threat, COVID or the actions of our government to protect us from COVID?” I can’t remember how the individual answered, but our ancestors did not land in Normandy on D-Day to fight a virus. They landed in Normandy to fight a government that had morphed into totalitarianism in the name of the public good.
I began speaking against the lockdowns immediately. That’s because shutting down private enterprise is property theft, and the lockdowns were state sanctioned acts of property theft. The Bible contains objective individual rights delineated from God’s unchanging character which is revealed in His Law. My initial posture did not stem from a desire to rebel against authority. It stemmed from my desire to see all men submit to the authority of Christ, and I recognized that the government was in rebellion against His rule. People believed that stealing private property would aid their health so they justified the theft of private property.
God permits nobody to steal another man’s property. He forbids theft. Not even magistrates and parliaments are permitted to steal another man’s property. The 8th Commandment is “Thou shalt not steal.” Nobody is permitted to be a thief, not even the state. Thieves go to hell (1 Corinthians 6:10).
Some have reasoned that in this instance, a so-called national emergency, such actions were permissible. Theft was allowed for the greater good. That is a purely utilitarian ethic that is embedded with multiple presuppositions. It presupposes (1) that there was a national emergency, (2) that theft would lead the nation out of the emergency, (3) that leading the nation out of the emergency is a greater good than not being a thief, and (4) that the national emergency was a greater evil than the emergency many families faced when the state robbed them. Beyond those assumptions, it presents a serious interpretive problem. If God permits the government to steal private assets to mitigate against perceived harms, what other commandments can the state violate to mitigate against perceived harms? And, beyond that, what qualifies as a perceived harm serious enough to violate God’s Law? Can the government violate the 6th commandment to mitigate against perceived harm? If the state says that the only way out of the pandemic is to kill a certain number of persons can they do that? Can they violate the 7th commandment to lead the nation out of a perceived national emergency? Is state mandated adultery ever permissible for the greater good? Hopefully the answers are obvious. If men have a right to their own lives (6th commandment) and if men have a right to their own wives (7th commandment), then men have a right to their own property (8th commandment).
Some will say that the government did not steal private property. They did. If I own a sandwich and I want to eat my sandwich, eating my sandwich is my prerogative because I own it. If a bully threatens to knock my block off if I don’t give him my sandwich that bully is stealing, even if that bully still says the sandwich that he now controls is mine. Ownership means the owner has the prerogative to use the property as God permits. If I own a restaurant – the food in storage, the plates, the kitchen appliances, the dinning room, etc. – and a bully says I am not permitted to use those assets to feed people and show hospitality, under threat of arrest or arduous financial penalty, then that bully is a thief. The fact of ownership entails that I can use what I own for good. If I possess the ownership of a car, but a car-jacker drives my car, that car-jacker is still a thief even if he admits that the car is registered in my name. If a greenhouse operator had a stock of 10,000 Easter lilies, and if the Premier said in April 2020 that he’s not permitted to sell those Easter lilies, the Premier is a thief. He might claim to be a thief in the name of the public good, but he is still a thief.
In 1 Kings 21, King Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard. Naboth was a private citizen with a beautiful vineyard, and his king wanted it. The king even offered Naboth “a better vineyard for it” (1 Kings 21:2). Naboth refused, and King Ahab became sullen. Ahab’s wife Jezebel assumed Ahab’s right to the private citizen’s vineyard, as she rhetorically asked the king, “Do you now govern Israel?” (1 Kings 21:7). She assumed that as governor he could take what he wanted from his citizens. She eventually concocted a plant to steal the vineyard and kill Naboth, and Ahab took the vineyard. Scripture unequivocally judges Ahab as the tyrant and Naboth as the victim. Kings aren’t above the Law, but rather the Law is above the king.
In our own situation, the government reasoned that if they seized businesses they might earn votes or they might keep people healthy. Many people, paralyzed with fear, loved the idea. Citizens and government alike coveted votes and/or health so they collaborated in property theft. They stole businesses and livelihoods. The early communists stole private property and crushed free enterprise with the promise of equalizing wealth. These communists stole private property and crushed free enterprise to equalize health.
The government certainly has authority from God. God granted that authority to promulgate good and punish evil. Like any agent who has authority, the state’s authority can be abused. It can even be abused in the name of perceived good. I recognized that abuse immediately, not because I hate the government. No, because I understand God’s design for the government. God designed government to protect private property, and our government suddenly became the thief God designed it to protect us from. The sad reality is that many pastors sanctioned the thievery. As the state crushed their neighbours’ businesses and robbed them of a livelihood, the pastors cheered them on while they safely asked their parishioners to start tithing online. I understand that a lot of people needed time to think this stuff through. So, with much of this behind us, now is a good time to start working through a political theology. Canadians have never seen a government this abusive, which is likely why many were so inclined to assume the best of the abuser. Serious teaching errors have been made, and the church’s witness to true justice has been devastated. We should not forget about it, but instead all that’s occurred is an opportunity to learn. Property rights are from God, and imbedded in the right to private property is the concept of free enterprise. To oppose either is to condone theft.