May 29, 2017

Is it Ever Okay to Loot or Salvage?

I think we have all seen pictures of both natural disasters and riots where there are people looting. This begs the question, is it ever okay to loot or salvage?
Maybe it’s just me, but when someone says the word “looting”, I think of someone taking advantage of a situation, taking items they wouldn’t normally be able to purchase. The term “salvage”, in my opinion, means taking things that are not in another person’s possession that are needed to survive.

Now that I have defined what the terms mean to me, let me paint a picture for you.
We all prepare for inevitable events like bad weather or power outages and other type of events. We also prepare for the larger events that, while less likely, could still happen. What if there is an event that is truly so large that it effects your entire region or country? I’m thinking something worse than Katrina. In this event there is a high death toll, public services are barely functioning and aid is very slowly trickling in.

In this scenario, you and a couple neighbors have survived. No matter how well you’re prepared, your supplies are limited and will only last so long. Would it be okay to loot/salvage?


Law of Necessity

I did a bit of research for this article and found reference to something called the Law of Necessity. (-The Legal Dictionary, The Free states that “The necessity defense has long been recognized as Common Law and has also been made part of most states’ statutory law.”

It goes on to explain:

“Almost all common-law and statutory definitions of the necessity defense include the following elements: (1) the defendant acted to avoid a significant risk of harm; (2) no adequate lawful means could have been used to escape the harm; and (3) the harm avoided was greater than that caused by breaking the law. Some jurisdictions require in addition that the harm must have been imminent and that the action taken must have been reasonably expected to avoid the imminent danger. All these elements mirror the principles on which the defense of necessity was founded: first, that the highest social value is not always achieved by blind adherence to the law; second, that it is unjust to punish those who technically violate the letter of the law when they are acting to promote or achieve a higher social value than would be served by strict adherence to the law; and third, that it is in society’s best interest to promote the greatest good and to encourage people to seek to achieve the greatest good, even if doing so necessitates a technical breach of the law.”


My Take:

It appears that as long as you’re breaking the law for the greater good, you might have a legal leg to stand on. You could, however, still face civil charges. What about the morality of it? The eighth commandment says “Thou shalt not steal”. If my neighbors’ entire family was killed in this event, is taking their canned goods to feed my family or another family stealing? These are questions you should be considering now, and pray we never have to actually put to use.

Would I salvage? Yes. In an event the size that I mentioned I would salvage goods to help my family and community.


  1. I think, in the midst of upheaval (caused for any reason) looting, as we know it, is wrong. Period. After the fact, when time has gone by, and owners will not be returning or are deceased, I think “salvaging” is okay, for those things that will help meet the needs of others. Food, clothing, and other supplies that will aid safety, lighting, medical aid, shelter, etc., are reasonable things to take. Looting usually involves the taking of items for pleasure, not necessity.

  2. Stealing is still wrong as far as I can tell. Steal from me and f I catch you your still just as dead.. “The thief comes to robs kill and destroy. came to bring Life .Jesus

    • Chris Ray says:

      I see looting as stealing from someone or some place that is being actively used, owned. I see scavenging as something taken that no one is actively using or in possession of. Does this mean if someone closes shop for the night it’s okay to break in? Of course not! But if that shop owner and his family have perished in the event, is it really stealing to make use of his good to better my family and the community?

      I at no time advocated taking anything from anyone.

  3. Nancy Sims says:

    I also agree…my husband and I talk about this often. Stealing is not Ok. But in a life or death situation, if WE were to die, our prayer would be that someone in need would “find” our supplies. We of course worry that some might take, before our grown children had a chance to possibly get to our house. So many different scenario’s to think of, but in the end, you must put your trust in God. If my children were hungry, or hurt, and I found medicine or bread (so to speak) with no one to claim it, I would certainly thank God for letting me find it!

    • Chris Ray says:

      “I would certainly thank God for letting me find it!”
      Bingo. As I hope anyone who might stumble upon my home should my family perish in an event of some kind.

  4. I recently read an interesting short e-book called “A Distand Eden” by Lloyd Tackitt. In it he struggles a bit with the massive disparity between our life now, and what our life would be like “if”.

    I don’t pretend to know the answers, but there will be a sharp contrast to what is acceptable now, and what is acceptable then.

    The Bible says in Proverbs 6:30 “Men do not despise a thief, if he steals to satisfy his soul when he is hungry: but if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold:”

    Right now, I do not have to contemplate stealing to maintain health. What will happen when I do? I would like to tell myself that I would not, but since I have never been in that situation, I don’t have the answers.

    I do feel that people that are able to make the quickest transition from what is normal to the horrendous events that are coming will be the most likely to be able to survive.

    Now what that “transition” entails is anyone’s guess. Here is an small example though.

    If you heard a knock on your door right now, what would you do? Probably get up, go open the door. Would you take your SHTF go to weapon with you? Doubtful.

    Now imagine an EMP, or complete financial collapse etc has happened and it is 2 days after the zero hour. You hear a knock on the door. What do you do now? Get up and go answer it? Maybe, but more than likely not without something substantial in your hand and someone backing you up.

    Things will be different, no doubt about that. How quickly we can adapt and still maintain our humanity is going to make the difference.

    • Chris Ray says:

      It is hard to say what one might do “if”, that’s why I ask these kinds of questions, to get people thinking. You are correct, if an event happens, our behavior must change with it, we cannot let normalcy bias keep us from responding accordingly.

    • Good book Robert. Ron Foster addresses much about this scenario in his Prepper Trilogy fiction series of books.

  5. I agree with you Chris. Some interesting points made already though.

    The writings of John Locke come to mind as well as St Thomas Aquinas, Plato and many other that philosophized about the Laws of Nature, natural laws and reason. Of course scripture is not silent about these matters. My issue is simply what Aquinas spoke of about the virtues justice, prudence, courage, and restraint; if a person lacks any of these, they lack the capability of moral choice and sound judgment. HELP!

    I believe community (commonwealth) will be of utmost importance and this decision should be left to that community and the moral code that is developed in it.
    Personally, if I were not part of a community, post rule of law, post mass die off of population and decay or disposal of bodies to the point disease would no longer be a safety factor, I would have no issue with scavenging and salvaging things left behind of those who are longer alive.
    I want some body armor and tactical weapons for the job though. That’s why I would rather delegate that to someone else.

    Oh that we will be Spirit led and consider everything with it’s particular weight in the Kingdom and in the Light of God’s Love and with the virtues of justice, prudence, courage, and restraint ever present in our thoughts and actions.

  6. want2racer says:

    I am always amazed at the people who are trigger happy and claim that they will shoot anyone who would come thru there area in a SHTF event. I would hope someone would be forgiving of me and me of them if someone needed help. I can’t imagine shooting some family or letting someone starve if I was able to help. Some of these people claim to be Christians as well. It speaks volumes of the world we live in today. Prepper yes and independent yes but none of us can survive alone for very long. .

    • Chris Ray says:

      I am with you; I think the reason why they are in the area is of great importance. Most often a simple hand out our asking them to just keep moving through would suffice.

  7. let us define our terms. Looting is stealing. Salvage is picking up found items that have value.

    Suppose you are wading down the flooded street, and pass a bookstore. The windows are gone, the door is open, water is rising. The disaster preparedness book on the bottom shelf is still dry, but won’t be for long. If you take it, are you stealing, or salvaging? Suppose it is a sack of flour, or salt, or beans? Canned goods? What about paper towels, or toilet paper? I can make a case that this is salvage, because the owner has abandoned his property (gone home to protect family) and the item will soon be rendered valueless by the contaminated oily water.

    Now suppose it is jewelry, precious metals, or fossils from the gem and mineral store? Since the water poses no threat to these, and they are not intrinsically useful in prolonging life, taking them is probably theft. (I don’t think anyone will believe you when you say “I was only safeguarding this gold for my friend, the jeweler.”)

    Electronics is a gray area. Merchandise is damaged, but not necessarily ruined by water. The larger and more valuable the item, the more likely that it is worthwhile to clean and repair. The cheaper, or more delicate the item is, the less likely it can be repaired economically. So I suppose you could get away with a transistor radio and batteries, or a flashlight, but not a cell-phone or big screen TV.

    The distinction that I am trying to draw is between things that are necessary for life, like food and information, and luxuries that are stores of wealth. The more immediately useful the item is, the less likely you are to be prosecuted.

    I suspect the only time it is moral to loot, is after (or during) combat operations against enemy property.

  8. The words salvaging, scavenging, stealing, and looting all have definitions that do not change based on a real or perceived need of an individual that chooses to engage in these acts. Personal interpretations of what these words mean doesn’t change the real meanings, it’s just an attempt to rationalize it. If you park your car and return later to find it gone, would you call the police and report it ‘scavenged’?

    While it might be easy to rationalize something like petty theft that saves your life as justifiable, the thief is hardly in a position to be an impartial judge of the morality of the act when it only stands to benefits him. What use did the rightful owner have for his property? Maybe his need was greater than yours.

    If “thou shall not steal” is debatable, then is “thou shall not bear false witness” as well? Is it OK to shoot a thief and provide false testimony and evidence that it was done in self-defense? Maybe a well-prepared Christian should have some burglerly tools AND a throw down gun, in case they should find themselves in either situation.

    • Chris Ray says:

      While I understand your argument, I think it is flawed. In my scenario it isn’t something small and that will be over quickly like walking away from your car and it being broke into. In your argument you make it seem as though people are just waiting for the opportunity to take something they otherwise would not be able to.

      Your comment about having a drop gun is an unfair comparison. Comparing taking someone’s life and making it look like they were going to shoot you first, is a far cry from scavenging unclaimed, unused goods for the sake of one’s survival.
      There are at least two times I can think of when Jesus Himself took food (or tried to) that did not belong to Him. Once while walking through the grain field and He took some grain on the Sabbath. The second time when he went to take a fig, but the tree was barren, so he caused it to die. Was He stealing?

      The bible also talks about a practice called gleaning, it is when the farmer would leave enough food behind on the ground, vine etc. so that the poor could come in after the harvest and pick up what was left. Are the stealing?

      • To scavenge is to take what someone else has discarded. Taking something that hasn’t been discarded by the owner isn’t scavenaging, it’s stealing. Did Christ steal? By human definition it would seem so, but then everything in existence is a gift from God, so maybe not. He certainly did so with omnipotent knowledge of the consequences, are you going to be as sure?

        Each culture or society makes it’s own rules regarding giving to the poor, a modern example of gleaning might be leaving items at your curb with a “free” sign. The free category on Craigslist might be another. I think we’d all agree that taking vegtables from the edges of someone’s garden today without their permission would be considered theft.

        Not to argue, because I see your point as well, I just don’t agree. Not saying I wouldn’t do it too, but I wouldn’t try to rationalize it as something other than what it is. If I posted signs on my property that said “Everything here is claimed, and for the sole use of the owner or his heirs”, would you then consider it theft (no matter how necessary), or change a definition to fit the circumstance?

        I think this is an important point for all to understand, since we’re talking about taking the necessities of life from another. What obligations do we have to someone who is taking from us what our family will need to survive? A shout? A warning shot? A sign? When you consider modern surveillance equipment, pre-positioned/cached goods, and the security plans some may invoke in a disaster – your perception of what is unused, unclaimed, or abandoned may not be valid, and potentially very dangerous.

        • Chris Ray says:

          I think our biggest difference is that in my definition, it would be scavenging things that were not in the possession or potential possession of someone else.

          I think I’m not being clear, so let me give an example. There is a pandemic and the family to my left perished, the family to the right has a couple family members still alive. I would mourn my lost neighbors, and would not like the idea of it, but I would scavenge their house to help my family and the few surviving neighbors to the right.

          You make some very good points, there are things that to me are cut and dry and others that are not. This is a topic that I think is important to think about now, as it is not an easy one to answer.

  9. Have you ever tried to imagine how irate the owner of that fig tree was, I mean it wasn’t even the time for it to have fruit (Mark 11:13) and He curse it that it would never have fruit. Perhaps it was wild. Perhaps we’d have to know that Jesus was looking for the small knobs, the taqsh, that came before the real fruit and a relevant sign that there would be fruit later. Perhaps He knows how will react even before we do. But isn’t even His wrath a manifestation of His love?

    It’s so much easier to debate semantics and theorize about rationalizing and justifying our actions when we are living in our current Rule of Law and civilized society. One of the reasons I included the phrase “of those who are no longer alive” in my comment is I know many that have never in their lives been in situation where Rule of Law has NOT been there. When there is no law, when everyone else is in a kill or be killed mode before asking questions, when your belly is thinking your throat’s been cut, when water is the most valuable item in the current world, surely perspectives will change. Even if yours doesn’t, other people’s will.

    I had the privilege of dealing many folks brought in from the ninth ward in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. I had been a psych hospital chaplain for a few years and trained in crisis management situations even more but never seen this kind of trauma. The precious folks that had done without food and water for days, lived on their roof tops, seen friends bodies floating by, endured the stench of bodily waste floating all around them and had been rescued from all that and survived had much to talk about and relay to all about the state of our society and how mankind will revert to, shall I say, a not so civilized version of their former selves. Certainly having never been in such a situation or having seen the traumatic state of that real survival situation with constant threats all around we have a perspective that we’d do what we think we’d do and not what we saw others do just to stay alive.

    It’s good to discuss these things now! I would love to say, I’m just going to have faith and allow God to take care of me. But then I have to consider the millions of Christians around our world right now that their lives are threatened every day, just for their belief, their faith. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary report in 2010 that on average 159,960 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith per year. I would like to have a conversation with just one of those and ask what would have done differently.

    You ask some interesting questions Walter. Some we all need to consider in our hearts BEFORE this situation arises. Every time I try to gather supplies for trip wires and trespasser warnings I wrestle with many issues in my spirit and pray I never have to really decide. When/if the time comes I hope and pray I can trust the Spirit to lead, guide and direct me but also stay my hand when my passions overtake what is right in the Lord’s eyes. Am I the only one that’s ever been torn to cry out, just take me home Papa, I don’t wanna be here anymore? I know I’m not. I know a very intelligent elderly Christian man that his first prep was a handgun with which he intended to take the life of his wife and then his own. They were in agreement that this would be the only real choice they would have. They have since done other prepping but still are resolute to their first option being an option. More we don’t want to think about.

    Preparations of body, mind and spirit are in call that we might be able to pray, Thy will be done Father, on earth as in heaven!

    • It’s a welcome change to discuss a topic like this with men of conscious. Let’s pray no one ever finds ourselves in either situation.

      You’re comment really expressed the dilemma I feel better than I could state it Jim, thanks. I think maybe the correct answers are to not take, and trust that He’ll lay at your feet what you need, when you need it, and with no ambiguity that it’s yours to use. And if taken from, let them have it , plus anything more that they can carry – even if it means going without (here on Earth anyway). I personally just don’t have enough faith to do either one. Take care and God bless.

      • Right on Walter! Trust your Spirit.
        Faith will be interesting in such conditions, as in any crisis situation. I bet you have more faith than you think you do brother.

        I’ll trust my spirit to know whether I’m gonna let them have it or “Let em Have IT!!!”
        if you know what I mean.


  10. Don Johnson says:

    I was one of the tour bus drivers that went to New Orleans two days after Katrina. We were stationed at a truckstop just outside of the city. We were given mre’s to eat and bottled water. With the electricty out for many day’s and the daily tempatures in the upper 80’s to low 90’s every store had either been looted or closed up. It would have been hard for a rat to find something to eat in some areas of New Orleans. Even with my hidden stash of mre’s after the second week I started to get concerned about how long my stash would last. I have seen news footage where even uniformed police officers would be carring food out of looted stores. I witnessed people pushing shoping carts down the street filled with everything from dozen’s of pairs of shoes, big screen t.v.’s,just about everything ever made. After the electricty is off for a few days to weeks and martial law is enforced everything changes. Probally those who are more apt to survive are those who can quickly access the severity of the situation and make adjustments and changes quickly. If you are in a large metropolitan area make sure you are one of the first ones out. Those who wait too long will have to abondon their cars by the side of the road and start walking. Store enough gas to get to your safe place. Plus an extra few gallons of gas would be worth it’s weight in gold when it is impossible to get it. Here’s a helpful hint, keep a sharp screwdriver and hammer in your car, you can punture the gas tanks on abandoned vehicles to keep you going, even cars that ran out of gas will have some left that the fuel pump couldn’t pick up. When your children havent eaten for several days and are filthy dirty and tired and you don’t know when they wii eat again you may find you have to re-think some of your previous convictions. If it comes down to my grandkids going hungry I will do what I can to feed them and then I will repent and make resitution later.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I know you and a few others who have posted here were there right after Katrina hit, I bet seeing it firsthand does give a different perspective.

      • Don Johnson says:

        I believe the Lord was trying to teach me something while I was in New Orleans. Even thou I felt like I wasn’t being used to the fullest extent while there and it being so overwhelming with all the destruction ,I was mainly in the 9th ward which was the most devestated. The main thing that readily comes to mind is the inability of govertment agencies to properly work together. You have so many personality conflicts that get in the way. I would never suggest that FEMA or your states National Guard will not come to your aid, but it may be several day’s if not longer. So store up enough food and water to last at least until help arrives. Like I have said before, those that have the best chance for survival are those that can acces the rapidly changing situation and switch into “survival mode”,quickly.

  11. I remember when the police broke windows in NYC so people could escape the building and debris bearing down on them. None were prosecuted, and rightly so.

    People were seen during Katrina carrying big screen tvs. That is looting and stealing and deserves a jail sentence.

    A police office also found people in a store and they were taking water and food they needed. The police did nothing, and righly so.

    I would kill to protect my children or grandchildren and food intended to keep them alive, and you and your god can make of it what you will.

    People who bring out their religion to be holier than thou are not going to change my mind. I won’t break into your house, but I will fight to the death to keep what is mine. If I went into a store where the owner had fled a hundred miles, I would take what I needed not to starve. And, I don’t even own a gun.

    George has it right.

    Oh, someone said he was going to trust god to give him what he needs. Then, why prep, just sit and wait on god.

    People on here are sticking to the letter of the law and ignoring the spirit of the law.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I have no problem with anything you said, except for the “People who bring out their religion to be holier than thou are not going to change my mind”. I don’t remember anyone pushing faith and making themselves out to be holier than anything. But this is a Christian blog, so people do express their opinion about faith freely.

      I completely agree with you on people saying God will provide. Unless He is miraculously putting food on your table each night, why would He in a survival situation.

  12. I do think that there are people who think that their quoting scripture and showing their religious beliefs makes them a better peson than someone else. It’s almost like who can be the most religious? Your agreement with saying God will provide proves to me you are not one of those who tries to be the “holiest.” Maybe you just don’t see the competitiion amongst the religious to be the most religious. I do.

    • Chris Ray says:

      You’re correct that there are those who think quoting scripture makes them holier than the rest; I just don’t see it in these comments. There are also people of every group that think they are better than other people of their group and of other groups.

  13. No. It is not. The human mind justifies. They NEED to take the TV. Yes. If you need to eat and there is a natural disaster take the food. But be very careful. Taking the $200 tennis shoes 4 pairs due to need is justification and is wrong. Call it what is is. And then there is no question to answer.

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