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Walter Kaiser on Private Property

October 11, 2016

From an Old Testament perspective, of course. This is Kaiser, after all. Read the whole paper at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics. Here’s an excerpt:

Scripture teaches that possessions and property may be acquired, for example, under certain conditions by way of reward. Thus even the ox is to remain unmuzzled as it tramps out the grain (Deut. 25:4) and mortals are similarly entitled to appropriate rewards for their labors (1 Cor. 9:9–11). Moreover, all deliberate withholding of wages that are due workers are roundly condemned (Lev. 19:13), because fairness and justice demands the proper pay for honest labor. On the other hand, any gains made through dishonesty must not be given any place in a believer’s life (Eph. 4:28; Prov. 11:1; 21:6; Hos. 12:7; Mic. 6:10–11). That is exactly how stealing is defined.

Possessions and property may also be acquired through inheritance (Deut. 21:16; Prov. 19:14), but even here there is a warning against discrimination (Deut. 21:16). Later on in Israel, only the eldest son received a double portion according to the Mosaic legislation, but this seems to be roughly equivalent to our laws that allow for the executor of the will (in addition to being an heir) to receive a larger portion than the other heirs who are required to pay the executor for the work of distributing the contents of the parents’ will.

Finally, possessions or property could be gained by industriousness (Prov. 10:4; 13:4; 14:23), wisdom (Prov. 3:16; 24:3), or by the development of insight (Prov. 14:15). The book of Proverbs, in particular, stressed the merits of doing a job with pride, satisfaction, and excellence (Prov. 12:24).

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