God, as Creator and Sovereign of all things, owns all things (Ex. 19:5; Ps. 24:1; 50:7-12; 1 Cor. 10:26). And He has delegated the stewardship of property to mankind, which he created in His image (Gen. 1:26-28) to tend and watch His garden (Gen. 2:8, 15). When Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord, God banished them from the Garden of Eden and posted a “No Trespassing” sign in the form of Cherubims and a flaming sword to keep them out, giving them a quick lesson on the reality of private property. This doctrine was preserved as God’s way to order and prosper society, which is why he established specific property laws. For example, He condemned the accumulation of property through theft (Ex. 20:15; Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2; Prov. 22:28; 23:10; Hos. 5:10; Eph. 4:28), the confiscation of property by governmental decree (1 Kings 21), and the willful destruction of property by the envious (Gen. 26:12, 17). To Him, these are lawless acts, damaging to an orderly society.
In the early Church, as many Christians voluntarily chose to sell their goods and give to the needy, Ananias and Sapphira sold some of their land and gave some of the profit to the apostles, pretending they had given it all. Yet, in spite of their actions, Peter upheld the doctrine of private property when he said, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” (Acts 5:4) As a result of their conduct, God punished them, not for not giving all, but for lying about what they gave.
In this light, the Biblical principle of private property is clearly antithetical to the idea of collectivism (a.k.a. Communism, Socialism, Marxism, etc.), which is mentioned in Scripture in principle. For instance, in 1 Samuel 8:5-18, after the children of Israel asked Samuel to give them a king like all the nations, Samuel prayed and God showed him “the manner of the king that shall reign over them.” Then, God told him to tell the people what he was shown: “This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you…he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants…he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants…he will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.” Notice, it says, “He will take…and give…he will take…and give…he will take.” In other words, as the king, through government fiat, he will “legally” steal and redistribute your goods. This is the essence of collectivism. Also, in Proverbs 1:13-17 Solomon tells his son to avoid those whose feet “run to evil” and “make haste to shed blood” saying, “We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse…”So, in this passage, we see those who work together to find and forcefully take “precious substance” and put it into “one purse” so they can communally fill their houses with spoil. Again, this is collectivism.
And what is the motivation behind this ideology? Well, as these passages make clear, the motivation is envy, greed, and covetousness, or, as Paul the apostle said, “the love of money” which “is the root of all kinds of evil” that will pierce the greedy and faithless with “many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10). Of course, those who know history, know that every single person and country that has embraced “the love of money” has been pierced (in more ways than one) with “many sorrows.” This is why the Lord, out of love for us, commands us in His Word to put off envy, greed, and covetousness, which are all rooted in selfishness, and to put on love, which is selfless, kind, and charitable. It was this kind of love that motivated Christians in the first century to privately and voluntarily sell their possessions and distribute the proceeds to all who were in need (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35). The Lord has always designated charity toward the needy as a personal, voluntary act (Lev. 19:10; Prov. 28:27; 29:7; Matt. 19:21; 25:31-46; Lk. 3:11; Acts 20:35; Gal. 6:2; Eph. 4:28; 1 Jn. 3:17), and it is through this medium that true “fairness” and “equality” is achieved (2 Cor. 8:13-15). Never, at any point in Scripture, does God enlist the State as a tool for charity. Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves is to the individual, not the State, and it is through His people that He works to help the hurting and downtrodden (Ps. 37:39; 121:1-2).
It’s time to choose. Will we follow the will of God or men? Will we adhere to the timeless principles of God’s Word or to the ideals of this world? Will we raise the standard or settle for a Nanny State?
Written by Joel M. Killion
Note: This article includes paraphrases from “God vs Socialism” by Dr. Joel McDurmon of AmericanVision.org.