Property Rights

…”As Christians, who do we believe has ultimate authority over all theses things?”

As you walk down the hall you hear the laughter of the boys in the playroom as they reenact Star Wars scenes with Johnny’s new lego set he got for his birthday.  The impersonations you hear and excitement in the room intrigues you, so you peer in to watch the boys interact.  Your son Johnny is having a play date with his best friend Max.  These two are inseparable.  They are on the same tee ball team, like all the same movies, and are truly two peas in a pod.  Then the chaos breaks out.  Max grabs for the Chewbacca character and begins to do his best Chewy gargle.  Johnny screams as he goes for a swift swipe of the miniature Wookie warrior, “THAT’S MINE! I ALWAYS PLAY CHEWIE!” and that’s your cue.  You step in from the hall, reveal yourself as a spectator, and quickly separate the boys before the wrestlemania begins.  Johnny pleads to you that these are his toys and he should have the right to dictate who plays with what.  You firmly remind him that as the father you have the ultimate authority in the house and the ability to take away toys, privileges, etc.  Johnny looks up confused and upset, as he was fully convinced in his mind that these were his toys and therefor he had all authority over them.

This is a funny little fictitious anecdote, but I am sure many of us can think of similar interactions we have had or similar situations we have been in.  These are just children, but the same controversies arise from adult conflicts and are settled in courtrooms around the world every day.  Many economists credit the financial strength of our country on our legal system and specifically our property rights.  The fact that you can actually own something in this country and you’re protected (most of the time) from the government or a thief uprooting your property is unique.  We are blessed by this right and this protection, but I wonder if it gives us a false sense of ownership.  I mean, as Christians who do we believe has ultimate authority over all these things?  Are these our things, is this our stuff, or are we just stewards of God’s property?  I think you get where I am going with this, but I question whether many of us really adopt this as truth.

Knowing what we believe is so important because many of our actions and behaviors are birthed directly from these deep seeded beliefs.  I know from personal experience what it’s like to be Johnny from our story.  I spent much of my life enveloped with arrogance and pride and still struggle to be grounded in God’s reality.  I have spent so much time in my thought life justifying why I wouldn’t share something or why I wasn’t willing to give to someone else and it all birthed from a self-centered mind set.  I told myself, “These were my things, I worked hard, I earned them, I deserve them, I am the center of the universe, and I have achieved what I have achieved all through my own actions.”  It’s actually laughable to look back at it now.  God was there every step of the way, God bestowed all my traits on me that allowed me to accomplish anything I did, God orchestrated relationships and situations that led me to any success I had.  He was the ultimate conductor or as James puts it, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  This same truth exists in the secular world, as many business authors and successful entrepreneurs tout that they were often a result of their circumstances; the right place at the right time.  Malcolm Gladwell dedicated a whole book to this thought.  In his best seller Outliers he records a handful of success stories from The Beetles to Bill Gates and explains the unique circumstances and opportunities these individuals had bestowed upon them.  The only difference is they assign the credit to chance, while we [Christians] rightfully praise God for these blessings.

Jesus spent much of his ministry helping to shift people’s paradigms.  Many of his teachings started with statements such as, “The kingdom of God is like…”  Jesus knew that our culture, our laws, our habits, etc. all led to creating a lens with which we view the world with.  Jesus knew that he would have to help us refocus this lens and teach us how God views the world.  One of these truths is that In God’s kingdom God has all the property rights.  He has all the authority and we are just stewards of His things.  Although He is the owner, He reminds us that in His kingdom there is always abundance, never scarcity (see Matthew 6:26-34).  This kingdom reality is weaved throughout the whole bible.  Think about how God provides sometimes and how far it is out of our “scope of reality.”  Jesus feeds 5,000 people (5,000 people!!!) with just 2 fish and five loaves of bread.  Jesus paid taxes from money he got out of a fish’s mouth, seriously!?  These provisions are an expression of how God provides, but His judgement is also presented when we alter this view of property rights and begin to hold back from God.  It was Cain’s skewed view on this that led to his sin, this same stumbling block led to the death of Ananias and Sapphira, Achan was punished in the book of Joshua for missing this truth as well, and these examples could go on and on.

So, can I ask you some questions?  In your heart of hearts do believe that all things in this universe, your cupboard, your closet, and your bank account belong to God?  Does your life and your actions reflect this truth?  If not, please read through His word, the accounts I referenced above, and meditate on this reality that all things belong to Him.  We are often white knuckled as we grip onto the things we “own” and we act in fear that these things may slip out of our control, but in the kingdom of God it is right when we let go and trust in Him that he lifts these burdens from us.  For He is the good Father that provides good gifts.