If you go into your neighbour’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag. If you go into your neighbour’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbour’s standing grain. (Deuteronomy 23:23-24)
Are you a capitalist or a socialist? Do you believe in private ownership of the means of production (such as grapes and fields) or state ownership? Both capitalists and socialists have claimed Biblical authority for their opposing views. Which view is more Biblical? At the risk of oversimplifying things we can say that ‘capitalism’ is driven by the belief that private ownership is inviolable. On the other hand, ‘socialism’ says that the State owns the grapes and land rather than the individual. The Bible’s answer is neither capitalist nor socialist. The Bible says that the best way to order society is by acknowledging that God alone is the Owner of everything. God is the Landlord of everything and He entrusts His earth to people. The Bible is not against private ownership provided that every ‘owner’ knows that she is under the True Owner. There is no absolute ownership in the Bible. Nothing you have is ultimately yours. The Landlord Himself has let You administer His stuff for a few decades. This means Christians are not free to do whatever we want with ‘our’ property. When needy people need grapes and grain, God wants us to give it to them so that they may live. On the other hand, notice how they are not entitled to deprive you of what God has entrusted to You. They are not entitled to harvest your grapes or your grain. They are only entitled to get what will allow them to live. In other words, the Bible endorses neither absolute individual property rights nor extreme socialism where ‘owners’ are deprived of what is theirs. This might all sound a bit like sociology but actually it’s very practical. This touches how we view our things. Are we generous with the goods God has entrusted to us? If you’re reading this you probably live in a relatively wealthy country. Do we cultivate an attitude that freely gives to the poor what God has freely given to us? PRAY and ask God to help you see things clearly. Ask Him to help you be more generous with His things. It is much easier to give away other people’s stuff than your own. Ask God to help you see that everything you have is Someone Else’s stuff. If you are poor, ask God to guard your heart against envy or wanting to take what God has entrusted to someone else. Ask God to give you a heart like Paul in 1 Timothy 6:8-10 so that you will learn to be content with food and shelter knowing that we will leave everything behind in this world and enter into our Master’s riches.