The Church of England under King James I, in the early part of the seventeenth century, was persecuting everyone who did not recognize its supreme civil and spiritual authority. Those who believed in freedom of worship were apprehended, imprisoned, and often executed for their beliefs. This is why 102 pilgrims, led by William Bradford, set sail for the New World on August 1, 1620; their desire to live and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences drove them to what they believed was “the Promised Land.”
On their perilous journey, the Pilgrims, who were steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments and looked to the ancient Israelites for their example, established the Mayflower Compact, which was based on Biblical standards. And when the Pilgrims finally landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in November, they found a cold and desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them; no houses to shelter them; no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had endured for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims died of starvation, sickness or exposure, but when spring finally came, the Natives taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish, and skin beavers for coats.
As a result, life improved. But in an attempt to prosper, they decided that everything they produced would go into a common store and that each person was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community and everything was distributed equally. Individual ownership was prohibited. And what was the result? Near starvation!
Bradford, the governor of the colony, saw that this form of collectivism was as destructive to the people as their first winter was. As Bradford wrote in his journal, “The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years…that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice.” In today’s vernacular, this manner of life is known as “communism,” which is “an economic and social system envisioned by the nineteenth-century German scholar Karl Marx” (American Heritage Dictionary) and is defined as “a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state” (dictionary.com). Of course, communism didn’t work for the Pilgrims.
So, as a remedy, he assigned a plot of land to each family to manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. In time, they realized that the Biblical principles of personal responsibility, merit, and free-enterprise produced personal motivation which gave incentive to the most creative and industrious people to work harder than anyone else; these self-evident truths released the fundamental principle of private property so that every family could work their own land and market their own crops.
And what was the result? Well, as Bradford wrote, “This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.” Soon, the Pilgrims found they had more than enough food. In time, they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Natives which led to profits, success, prosperity, and the eventual “Great Puritan Migration.”
As a result, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God for the Natives who saved them that first winter and for the Lord Who gave them the wisdom needed to set up a thriving colony which, as we now know, laid the initial groundwork for the creation of our great Country.
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.
God Almighty owns everything. This is the biblical view: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps. 24:1); God says, “[E]very beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all it contains (Ps. 50:9–12).
God created mankind in His own image. Man reflects God’s character and order. Just as God owns everything, God delegated the stewardship and dominion of property to His image, mankind (Gen. 1:26–28), and thus humans have the capacity and calling to act as private owners. God planted a special garden—the Garden of Eden—and placed man in it to till it, and to guard its boundaries (Gen. 2:8, 15). When Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s law-order, God kicked them outside of those boundaries, and placed a “no-trespassing” sign in the form of an angelic guardian at their gates (Gen. 3:23–24). Adam and Eve very quickly learned the ins and outs of private property.
This doctrine continued as God’s way of ordering and prospering society, and we see this in the fact that God’s fundamental laws for living—the Ten Commandments—includes the prohibition of theft (Ex. 20:15). No man or group of men can take another man’s property—by individual act, legislation, petition, conspiracy, or appeal to the “common good”—in disregard for God’s law. The Old Testament frequently refers to the moving of a neighbor’s landmark (a property corner) in order to increase one’s own property (Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2; Prov. 22:28; 23:10; Hos. 5:10). The references forbid or condemn the act as an attack on inheritance and possession (Deut. 19:14).
The same doctrine holds in the New Testament. In the early Church in Acts 5, as many Christians voluntarily sold their goods and gave to the poor among them, one couple sold some land and laid only a portion at the apostles’ feet pretending they had given all. Nevertheless, even for these corrupt-hearted individuals, Peter upheld the doctrine of private property: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” (Acts 5:4). God punished them, not for not giving all, but for lying about what they gave.
Other apostles upheld the doctrine as well: Paul preached against theft (Eph. 4:28), as did Peter (1 Pet. 4:15) and James (Jam. 5:4). Not to mention that Jesus saw the command as quite relevant as well (Matt. 19:18).
The biblical witness is clear: God believes in private property, and He not only desires us but commands us to live by that rule as well. Under this system, our rights and freedoms come from God. No man can take them away. He who tries must answer to the law, and ultimately to God.
Socialism is the belief that individual private property is a bad idea. It is thus an anti-Christian and anti-biblical belief. Socialists believe that governments should own most or all property and distribute it out as government experts, scientists, politicians, or occasionally voters see fit. Under socialism, the State puts itself in the place of God and says, “The earth is the State’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Under this view, the individual has no protection from his neighbor if his neighbor is in the majority, or if the State somehow deems his neighbor as needful in some way; the State simply uses force to take that individual’s property and give it to someone else. In this sense, the State moves landmarks every day. In this view, the State determines our rights, and gives us our freedoms; here there is no appeal beyond the State.
Socialism is the belief, therefore, that stealing is acceptable as long as another man or group of men says so. Socialism believes in theft by majority vote or by a majority of representatives’ votes in Congress. Socialism is the belief that armed robbery is OK as long as you do it through proxy of the government’s gun. Socialism places man, and ultimately the State, in the place of God. Man becomes owned by other men, instead of by his Maker. Socialism is an entirely humanistic, God-denying, God-usurping belief.
Between these two beliefs—private property and socialism—there exists fundamental conflict. They represent contradictory views of sovereignty, man, law, society, and inheritance. They are fundamentally rival religious systems. Choosing one, you reject the other—service and honor to God, or servitude to fellow men. Either God commands and judges man, or man commands and judges man.
This is the Introduction to Mr. McDurmon’s book by the same title. To order your copy of his book, CLICK HERE.