The Bible begins with two uncontested presuppositions: First, God exists, and, second, He is the Creator of “the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). A third presupposition logically follows from the first two: “The earth is the LORD’s and all it contains” (Ps. 24:1; see 1 Cor. 10:26). Not only the land, but the stuff of creation also belongs to God: “For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:10).
Private (personal) property rights are based on the fact that God is the prior owner who delegates ownership to His creation. The creator/ownership paradigm is the model for how we establish the principle of private property and the laws that go with it. If I own a piece of property and decide to sell it or give it away, the transaction has legitimacy because I had legal title to the property, and I voluntarily decided to part with it. In the same way, God’s original ownership makes subsequent ownership possible and meaningful. Without the reality of prior ownership, the idea of private property is little more than a social construct. If we subscribe to the evolutionary model, then how is private property a defensible right?
Unlike so many esoteric religions, the biblical worldview embraces the material world without either deifying it or secularizing it by separating it from religious considerations. Genesis 1:31 gives us God’s own evaluation of His creation: “And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good.” Even the fall did not erase this evaluation. Paul, in the NT, declares: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4–5). The Bible rejects the false spirituality of the Gnostics who relegate material things to a low plane of being. “Paul was referring in Colossians to the terms used by Gnostic teachers: ‘Touch not!’ ‘Taste not!’ ‘Handle not!’ (Colossians 2:21, 23).” The Bible is a very material book, and matter matters to God, including economic matters. We know this by the way the Bible presents economic issues within a specific creational and moral framework. Here some examples; there are many more:
- The sixth commandment states without equivocation, “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15). Restitution is required for most property crimes (Ex. 21:33–34; 22:3, 5, 6; 22:12). Those not associated with the crime are not taxed to punish the thief. If a person is not able to pay restitution, then indentured servitude is a lawful option.
- Property is protected: “Iron pins are a common and useful means of identifying property corners and they and other similar monuments serve a useful purpose. The installation and maintenance of permanent monuments identifying land corners even preserves the good order of society itself. From earliest times the law not only authorized but protected landmarks. Interference with landmarks of another was a violation of the Mosaic law. See Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2; Proverbs 22:28; 23:10. (256 Ga. 54, International Paper Realty Company v. Bethune. No. 43092. Supreme Court of Georgia, June 10, 1986).”
- Civil governors are bound by the same commandments. The case of Naboth’s vineyard is a good example (1 Kings 21). Ahab king of Samaria wanted Naboth’s vineyard for a vegetable garden. The king was willing to buy it. “If you like,” he said to Naboth, “I will give you the price of it in money” (1 Kings 21:2). Ahab even offered to give Naboth another vineyard in its place. Naboth rejected the offers, so Ahab and Jezebel conspired to charge Naboth with a capital crime. He was executed, and Ahab took possession of the property.
- The Bible emphasizes hard currency—gold and silver. Gold is in Eden, “and the gold of that land is good” (Gen. 2:12).
- The Bible considers inflation to be a violation of the law: “Your silver has become dross, your drink diluted with water” (Isa. 11:22).
- The Bible requires “just weights and measures”: You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:36). Also, “You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small” (Deut. 25:13).
- A tax of ten percent is a sign of tyranny. In his pamphlet Common Sense Thomas Paine used 1 Samuel 8, along with Judges 8, in his defense to separate from England.