A Little Folklore Turned Reality: Robin Hood and Redistribution of Wealth

Folklore has a way of taking a look at life from a perspective that some might yearn was reality, though it be nothing more than fantasy. One particularly famous lore that will at least momentarily dominate my comments for the moment and be a stepping stone of sorts to a related topic, is that of Robin of Loxley, a.k.a. Robin Hood. The tale told for centuries with various takes on certain parts of it goes something like this:

At some point in England’s past when kings reigned supreme and there was a great divide between the classes of wealth (nobility and peasantry). Wen wars were fought in the name of Christ on foreign fronts, but they in no way represented the biblical message of Christianity (i.e., the Crusades). An imprisoned noble finally escapes and returns to his homeland that has been ravaged by tyranny. Those in power have acquiesced more, and those who were just trying to etch out a peaceful life in the hovel are barely able to keep their heads out of the cesspits. Many are found starving and heavily burdened under the increased tax load of the Sheriff of Nottingham; the evil mastermind, who has taken possession of lands in the wake of King Richard’s war, including our young lord Loxley.

My favorite depiction of this popular yarn is the one from the 90’s starring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). I watched the newer version with Jamie Fox and Taron Egerton earlier this year, but didn’t really care for it. Preferring instead the older version of my youth. Perhaps that is personal bias on my part, can’t really say, but I just thought the overall story arch was much better. That and I’ve always enjoyed Costner and Freeman as actors.

However, I’m not a movie reviewer. You are free to like whatever version you please. My chief concern is the method of attack that is used by both versions of Robin Hood. Namely, the taking from the rich and powerful and giving to the poor and downtrodden.  

Perverted Justice…

I think that there is something about this perverted form of justice that speaks to our hearts. We don’t like to see others abused; which, is a good thing. Especially, by those who have connived their way to the top over the backs of others.

Governments are meant to govern the people by means of protecting them from evil and upholding the good, not the other way around. And so, there is a sense of “that’s what you get!” when we see Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men robbing the Sheriff’s bloating kitty (i.e., treasury). We feel a sense of justification with the concept of “taking from the rich and giving to the poor.”  Our hearts are momentarily elated when we see the nasty tyrants—the rich and powerful—getting what they deserve!

But as I said a moment ago, this is a “perverted form of justice.” You see, what we forget in this noble tale is that Robin “the” Hood is an outlaw. That is, he is living the life of someone outside the boundary of the law. He is stealing, but it is considered justified (i.e., a good thing), because he is giving to the needy masses by taking from the no good for nothing rich.

“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev 19.15; emphasis added. ESV throughout. Cf. Deut 16.19).

A commonly held belief that stealing is okay, not really criminal, if a person does it in need. I’m sure you’ve heard the scenario about the man just trying to steal a loaf of bread or some other form of food to feed his family. While the story is meant to pull on your hearts strings it is not a legitimate argument. In an effort to cover the act of thievery, we play the sympathy card: “What about his wife and/or children? It’s not fair that they should go without.”

“People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry…” (Prov 6.30)[1]

A Dose of Reality…

While a compassionate person will truly relate to such sentiments. (I mean you’d have to be a pretty heartless person to not care about the physical wellbeing of other people). The truth regarding theft has not changed. It is wrong. It doesn’t matter who does it. It doesn’t matter what the motives were. To take from another and give to someone else is criminal.

“but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house” (Prov 6.31).[2]

In the story of Robin Hood, those who serve as civil magistrates—in this case the Sheriff of Nottingham—are wrong for increasing the tax burden on the people to build up the public treasury for their own personal gain. People are not called to serve the government as god, the government ought to serve its people under God.[3] That is why they are in power. And the way that they do this best is when they refrain from going outside their normal parameter of operations. Defending her citizens not harming them by robbing them, is the boundary line they are tasked with not passing.

That being said, Robin “the” Hood is no less guilty for his theft. He too is required to be obedient to the law, he is not above it. Am I then saying it is wrong to fight against government induced oppression? No, I’m not. For there are times when such action is justified.

For the government is not a law unto itself. It is bound by the same Law that binds all hearts. The refusal to submit to this overarching Law is just a much an act of rebellion as when Robin Hood robs the tax trains and steals from fattened nobles benefiting from the tyranny running rampant in the land. But our method of resisting tyranny ought not to be to abandon the law that governs society as a whole.

Wishy Washy…

Of course, I am speaking now as if there is an absolute, universal law-system that is meant to govern the affairs of all people. Which is true. A law-system in flux cannot govern, for the standard to be applied is always changing. As the late R. J. Rushdoony pointed out, such a fluctuating system of law will inevitably go down either one of two paths. Either anarchy will reign (whatever I the individual says is right is right, whatever I call wrong is wrong), or totalitarianism will rule the day (whatever the government says is right is right, whatever the government says is wrong is wrong).  

What one calls theft today might be seen as a viable occupation wherein one might receive a daily wage. How then can you ever get upset if someone takes from you? The consistently rational person realizes that you can’t. If there is no overarching law-system in place that is beyond people, even beyond the government, then you can’t call taking from someone who has in an effort to give to someone who has not (you?) theft. Rather, a better name for it might be “redistribution of wealth.”

Lies of Free under the guise of Redistribution

Does that sound familiar? It ought to. That is the conviction of a great number of politicians in our country. They promise “free” healthcare for all, “free” education for all, “free” food for all, “free” money for all, but in order to give that “free stuff” they have to take from someone else. We have been weaned on this mindset over the past few generations—dating back to some time in the early-mid 20th century (at least here in the U.S.).

By the way there is no such thing as “free” when it comes to the things mentioned above. People work in those fields (healthcare, education, food industry, etc.) and they don’t do the work for free. How are those people paid for providing those “free” services? Why, by taking from the wealthiest among us. It is interesting how popular the story of Robin Hood is. For on the one hand there is a sense of justice involved in it, but on the other the method of acquiring justice is anything but.

Class Envy…

Here in the West we have the same mindset, and it is driven by class envy. I have known some very wealthy people in my life. Do you know how they acquired that wealth? They worked their butts off. They put in time and invested their own money, while the majority of us struggle through our daily tasks, kick our shoes off at the end of a hard day, and sit in front of the Telly.  

I listen to others complain, “Why does anybody need that much money? It’s not right that they have “x” amount of dollars.” The solution they offer, that they are proud to offer, is these richer citizens should pay a higher tax rate in order to provide for those less fortunate. Politicians on both sides of the aisle (Republican and Democrat), although we need to face the fact that socialists are the controlling factor of the Democratic platform, play on the emotions of the people. They play on their covetous nature. They play on their envy. Those socialistic leaders in Washington have clothed themselves in the garb of Robin Hood before the people and all the while they are the incarnation of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Like the poor people receiving scraps of bread from the hands of Robin as he rides by on horseback, the citizens in this nation who have their hands out say “Thank you, sai! Thank you so much for your kindness. Thank you for providing for my needs. God bless you Robin…!”

Being rich is not a sin. Amassing great wealth is not a sin. Acquiring properties and land is not a sin. If a person works hard, puts in the time and effort, it is right that they receive their due wages.

It is wrong to take from others, in order to redistribute their wealth to the masses. That is a sin. It is also theft. Doesn’t matter if it is the citizen who holds her hand out for the scraps from Washington’s table. Doesn’t matter if it is Washington pretending that they are some savior knight who wields a bow. IT IS THEFT, plain and simple. We need to stop looking at this subject with blinded eyes. The scales need to fall off, and we need to see the truth applies to all:

“You shall not steal” (Exod 20.15).


[1] God does make a distinction in the act. There are degrees of evil, some lesser and some greater. But God is the One who weighs the overall motives. At the same time, He recognizes that people are nominally more accepting of a poor man stealing because of some perceived need, than the greedy person taking what they don’t need because they are never satisfied.

[2] However, regardless of the motive of the crime. The criminal act is not justified just because of someone’s perceived needs (real or not). The thief is still held accountable according to God’s law. They are still liable for punitive damages. They must still repay what they have take from another. Better it would have been for the poor, if work was not available, to ask their neighbor for help in humility than justify taking from another in an instance of pride.

[3] That is to say, the governing authorities—whether they realize it or not—answer to a power higher than themselves. Regardless of the personal opinion of so many, the laws on which this nation was founded, the principles that were shared by those who helped form this union, were guided by the belief of the biblical Creator. Biblical precepts, biblical law identified God as the only true Sovereign. Those in leadership were to rule as creatures under His stead. Unfortunately, history is replete with kings or various other forms of civil magistrates that govern a people assuming their own deity. They pretend as if they are a law unto themselves, rather than answerable to One above them. My statement is that people were not created to be slaves of the state, as if that state were their god and master. Rather, the state was ordained by God (i.e., under Him) to serve the people by protecting them from evil at home and abroad.