What does the Bible have to say about personal property and private ownership?
God Owns Everything
God owns everything that exists. If God took all of what you call your own away, how would you respond? Job understood that everything he had belonged to God. And when God chose to take it, Job didn’t grow angry with God. Instead, he responded, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” God owns everything.
God Delegates His Authority
Although God made everything, and by right it belongs to Him, He chose to delegate the right of authority over everything that exists here on earth to mankind. After God made Adam and Eve, Genesis 1:28 says, “God blessed them; and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Even after the worldwide Flood, God continued to delegate this authority to mankind. (Genesis 9:1-8)
Private Ownership is a God-Given Principle
God not only gave mankind generally the authority to subdue and rule over the earth, but He also established the principle of private ownership, so that individuals would own certain things.
Some Christians espouse a kind of Christian socialism or communism. They quote the command in Mark 10: “Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, you’ll have treasure in heaven; and come and follow Me.” Some believe that universally applies to all Christians. But that is not what the Bible teaches. As early as Genesis 15 when God tells Abraham that he and his descendants will own and possess a piece of property.
All Scripture underscores the principle of private ownership. Ironically, even the passages many use to defend Christian socialism (Acts 4:32 ff) establishes this: “While your (land) remained unsold, did it not remain your own?”
You Shall Not Steal
The reason it’s wrong to take something from someone else is because in the eyes of God it actually belongs to that other person. The principle of private ownership of land and possessions is affirmed in the Old Testament under the theocracy, and reaffirmed in the New Testament for the followers of Jesus Christ.
You Are a Steward
During your life here, God has made you a steward – He has allowed you ownership of what really belongs to Him.
God has distributed material wealth according to His own sovereign purposes and He demands that we respect and care for the property of others and be wise stewards of our own.
Do you understand that all of those things belong to you only in the sense that you are a vassal to a feudal lord? How are you doing with your stewardship – are you using it wisely, in the way the Lord would want you to use as He directed?