Monday, May 6, 2019

Private Property

"You shall not steal" (Exodus 20:15).

The eighth commandment guarantees the right of private ownership of property. Biblically speaking, our ownership of property is not absolute; rather, it is a stewardship from God. Thus, God allowed an Israelite to eat his neighbor’s grapes while walking through his field, but not to gather a basket of them (Deuteronomy 23:24–25).

The Bible stands against communism and socialism. There is no biblical justification for men to use the power of the state to steal from others, whether by “nationalizing” industry under socialism and communism or by “controlling” industry under fascism. Private property and businesses are to remain free of control by the “state,” or free of control by those manipulating the power of the state for their own (often hidden) purposes. Communism, socialism, fascism, and numerous other “isms” are simply cloaks for theft, whereby powerful people use the sword of the state to steal from others.

God owns the land. That means we do not have absolute rights over property entrusted to us. God allows society to regulate pollution, for instance (Exodus 22:6). His moral law prohibits various crimes, whether committed on private or public property and thus it is legitimate for society to regulate private industry at the level of ethics and morality.

For most of us, however, the temptation to steal takes more mundane forms. If you cheat on an examination you have stolen honor from those who have not cheated. If you cheat on your income tax you are stealing because God commands us to pay our taxes (Romans 13:6–7). If you fail to put in the work your employer expects you are stealing from him. If you fail to tithe ten percent of your income to the Church you are stealing from God (Malachi 3:8).

The Bible teaches that part of the tithe is to be used for the care of the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28–29). This means care of the poor is the duty of the Church, not of the civil government. The Bible also teaches that individual Christians should watch out for the poor in their midst (Deuteronomy 15:11). The Bible never teaches, however, that the civil government should use the power of the sword to redistribute money from the rich to the poor.

Surely one of the primary reasons we have an oppressive tax burden and welfare system is due to the failure of the Church to do her job. What steps can your Church take to recover the task of charity? How will the local Church be funded in her endeavor? Is there a relationship between the failure of Christians to tithe and the growth of oppressive taxation in our society?