Property Rights

Property and Christianity

“And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved” (Acts 2:44-47 ASV).

On a Campaign for Christ in Northampton, England (1980) I was studying with a Brit, when as we were reading Acts 37–47, he became excited saying: “It’s there, they said it was, and there it is!” I had no idea what he was referring to, so I asked. “Communism,” he said, “Communism is in the Bible.” Turned out, he was a member of the Communist party of England.

For the next hour I had my work cut out for me.

What is the godly approach to property rights and such?

In ancient Israel, the land promises were such that, if property were sold, it reverted back to the original family come the Jubilee year. Laws were enacted indicating the responsibility of owner for his own property, for example: “When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement (wall – spw) for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thy house, if any man fall from thence. ((Deuteronomy 22:8. Consider also Exodus 21:28-36 and 22:6)

When Ahab wanted Naboth’s garden, Naboth refused the king. Rather than go to the courts, which legally would side with Naboth, against the government (the King), Jezebel had Naboth murdered to gain possession of it (1 Kings 21).

Personal property was part of the gift of the Promise-land, and carried with it personal responsibility as well.

In the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira lied, claiming they had donated the whole price they were paid for a possession. Peter said: “While it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power?”  (Acts 5:4).

The issue was lying, not withholding what was theirs. It was theirs before it was sold and after it was sold the money remained theirs to do as they wished.

The difference between communism (as well as some forms of socialism) and Christianity is that in communism the state enforces communal ownership by law. In Christianity, we voluntarily give what is ours, as our hearts dictate. It was ours to do with as we wish, it remains within our power.

When we voluntarily give of our property, we do so “not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of [our] love” (2 Corinthians 8:9). And, “ each [gives]… according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” ( 2 Corinthians 9:7).

Someone said, “In capitalism he who dies with the most toys wins. In socialism, extra toys will be confiscated and given to those with fewer toys. And in communism; Toys? No one gets toys!”

Whether true of not, in every system, regardless of what we possess, we still will die and face the judgment of God “who will render to every man according to his works” (Romans 2:6; see also Revelation 20:12 and 22:12). If we choose to share of our possessions, it is not by command, but from a sincere and loving heart that chooses to do so. Whatever we choose in regard to sharing, we bear in mind Matthew 25:31–46.

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Scott Wiley

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One thought on “Property and Christianity

  1. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (property) are parallel principles stated by Paul on Mars Hill – “In whom we LIVE, MOVE and HAVE OUR BEING.” The freedom to obtain, maintain and give away property is more than just American, it is biblical! Good article!

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