AND ALL THE PEOPLE SHALL SAY, 'AMEN.' - Namakando Nalikando Sinyama
ACQUISITION OF PROPERTY
Scripture teaches that possessions and property may be acquired, for example, under certain conditions by way of reward. Thus even the ox is to remain un-muzzled as it tramps out the grain (Deut. 25:4) and mortals are similarly entitled to appropriate rewards for their labors (1 Cor. 9:9–11). Moreover, all deliberate withholding of wages that are due workers are roundly condemned (Lev. 19:13), because fairness and justice demands the proper pay for honest labor. On the other hand, any gains made through dishonesty must not be given any place in a believer’s life (Eph. 4:28; Prov. 11:1; 21:6; Hos. 12:7; Mic. 6:10–11). That is exactly how stealing is defined.
Possessions and property may also be acquired through inheritance (Deut. 21:16; Prov. 19:14), but even here there is a warning against discrimination (Deut. 21:16). Later on in Israel, only the eldest son received a double portion according to the Mosaic legislation, but this seems to be roughly equivalent to our laws that allow for the executor of the will (in addition to being an heir) to receive a larger portion than the other heirs who are required to pay the executor for the work of distributing the contents of the parents’ will.
Finally, possessions or property could be gained by industriousness (Prov. 10:4; 13:4; 14:23), wisdom (Prov. 3:16; 24:3), or by the development of insight (Prov. 14:15). The book of Proverbs, in particular, stressed the merits of doing a job with pride, satisfaction, and excellence (Prov. 12:24).
THEFT OF POSSESSIONS AND PROPERTY
Theft is both a shortcut to obtaining possessions and property by means of avoiding any work to gain such, as well as by an outright denial of God’s law. Wealth, if it comes to a person, will come either as a result of labor, inheritance, or a gift, but it is easy for either the rich or the poor to violate God’s law, because humans are sinners as well.
The eighth commandment, while one of the two shortest in the Decalogue (Ex. 20:15; Deut. 5:19), taught that stealing was not only taking another person’s property, but it also included all forms of coercion, fraud, or taking another person’s possessions or property without consent, along with all forms of cheating or harming property by destroying its value in one way or another. Thus theft involved the following: robbing victims directly; using indirect and legal means of gaining benefits not deserved; or by being part of a corporate group that steals, even though you are not a knowing party of all that is going on.
Some have tried to argue on the basis of Proverbs 6:30–31 that thievery in times of necessity is not morally wrong. That, however, is to misunderstand this text in Proverbs, for while it compares the sin of adultery over against that of thievery, it argues that the sin of stealing to satisfy one’s hunger brings less dishonor and public shame than one who commits adultery receives—even though both are violations of the law of God. The thief in this case is to be pitied, but the adulterer earns scorn and contempt; his acts of disgrace violate both the law of God and his own marriage vows.
Private property is both a gift and a certain type of power God has entrusted to humanity as stewards. It was God’s intention that mortals should be equipped with this gift and power and that under God they should exercise dominion over the earth. An attack on the rights to private property in recent centuries has denied God’s law and design by weakening those same property rights. Some people, known as “robber barons,” used their power as corporate bosses to trample the law of God underfoot and appealed instead to evolution with its “struggle for the survival of the fittest,” in what became known as “the law of competition.” Oftentimes, the theory of evolution became an excuse for justifying massive theft in all too many instances where the weak or the poor were the victims. Sensing that property was a form of power, the totalitarian state sought to gain more and more power over private property to be able to subjugate the people. Therefore, private property understood as a gift, given to mortals by God to be used for his honor and glory, was often confiscated in increasing portions to ensure the power of the state or of the corporation. This, too, received criticism and judgment from heaven because God did not intend for his gift to be abused in this manner. This can be seen especially in what the state calls “the right of eminent domain.”
IN THE YEAR OF JUBILEE
And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.
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