No Equity Among Thieves

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
– John 10:10, ESV

Years ago, I heard a man tell an intriguing story about four thieves. It was intriguing because though all four were thieves, each of the four met with a different fate.

“Not fair!” we may cry. And that is true. It is not fair. A thief is a thief is a thief, and all should be treated with equity, we argue. But these are not the ways of the kingdom.

Equity and justice are strong battle cries in current-generation society, both inside and outside the church. Such cries ring of high-mindedness and virtue, and those who dare question the pursuit of equity and justice are shamed and derided with the vilest of terminology. Those doing the shaming and labeling are blind to the fact that what society truly needs is neither equity nor justice. Indeed, what we need is mercy, for we are all thieves, just like the four we are about to consider.

The First Thief

[Judas] said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.
– John 12:6, ESV

All four of the thieves were closely connected to the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, and sadly, the first of the four rose from his own band of disciples. It was Judas who betrayed Jesus and leveled the road for his arrest, conviction, and subsequent crucifixion.

The Second Thief

The second thief was a thief and more. He was an insurrectionist and a murderer.

And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas.
– Mark 15:7, ESV

After [Pilate] had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
– John 18:38b-40, ESV

Barabbas had been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, but Barabbas was released and Jesus condemned in his place. In this way, Barabbas benefited, at least for a time, from Jesus. Barabbas was granted an unforeseen and undeserved liberty because Jesus willingly took his place on the cross.

The Third and Fourth Thieves

The last two thieves, we look at together because they are presented together in scripture.

Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.
– Matthew 27:38, ESV

We don’t know who these men were. Scripture never tells us. What we do know about them is that their perceptions of Jesus were dramatically different from each other, and those attitudes and their responses to the man crucified between them determined their destinies.

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
– Luke 23:39-43, ESV

Four Distinct Outcomes

We have seen four thieves in three distinct vignettes. One thief was a betrayer who ended his life in suicide. Another thief was a beneficiary for a time, getting a temporary reprieve from his death sentence. One thief was a berater, lashing out at Jesus, even mocking him as he died by his side. The fourth thief was repentant, seeing something in Jesus that most do not see, and that thief received a gate pass to be with Jesus in paradise.

Jesus, who is not a thief, received the penalty of a thief that he might save all the thieves.

Is that justice?


Is it equity?


It is mercy and grace. That is what we want, and that is what we need. We will not find that in social constructs. We find that only in Jesus.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
– John 10:10, ESV

Blessings upon you, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon
Twitter – @DamonJGray
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Damon J. Gray

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