By R.J. Rushdoony
It is the custom among ecclesiastical socialists to deny that there is Biblical warrant for private property. Their ground for this is the often repeated Biblical declaration, “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ex. 9: 29, etc.) However, they choose to neglect the total witness of Scripture to private property. The so-called communism of Acts 2: 41-47, also cited by ecclesiastical socialists, was simply a voluntary sharing by some (Acts 5). It was limited to Jerusalem. Because the believers took literally the words of Christ concerning the fall of Jerusalem (Matt. 24: 1-28), they liquidated their properties there. The wealthier members placed some or all of these funds at the church’s disposal, so that a witness could be made to their friends and relatives before Jerusalem fell. Very early, persecution drove all but a nucleus out of Jerusalem (Acts 8: 1).
The earth is indeed the Lord’s, as is all dominion, but God has chosen to give dominion over the earth to man, subject to His law-word, and property is a central aspect of that dominion. The absolute and transcendental title to property is the Lord’s; the present and historical title to property is man’s. The ownership of property does not leave this world when it is denied to man; it is simply transferred to the state. If the contention of the liberals that the earth is the Lord’s, not man’s, is to be applied as they require it, then it must be applied equally to the state; the state then must be denied all right to own or control property.
The Scripture, however, places property in the hands of the family, not the state. It gives property to man as an aspect of his dominion, as a part of his godly subduing of the earth. If the doctrine of dominion in and under God is weakened, then all the law is weakened also.
God grants dominion to man under His law, but He does not grant His sovereignty. God alone is absolute Lord and Sovereign. To deny God’s sovereignty is to transfer sovereignty from God to man, or to man’s state. Thus, Thomas Paine, in the Rights of Man, affirmed as a fundamental principle the sovereignty of the nation-state, declaring, “The nation is essentially the source of all sovereignty; nor can any individual, or any body of men, be entitled to any authority which is not expressly derived from it.” Paine and the French Revolution clearly affirmed their totalitarianism by this statement. The state as god became the source of authority, morality, and dominion. Quite logically, the French Revolution became a boot, grinding down the face of man, but, by the grace of God, not forever.
God’s purpose is not the dominion of sin but the dominion of redeemed man over the earth under God. According to the Apostle Paul, the very creation around us groans and travails, waiting for the godly dominion of the children of God (Rom. 8: 19-23). Because of the fall, creation is now under the dominion of sinful man and is being laid waste by his perverted use of power. Even as the plant turns to the light, so creation turns with longing to the restored dominion of godly man. Even as dust and stones move in terms of gravity, so they move also in terms of God’s purposed dominion of man over them. The people of God must therefore be schooled into the nature and requirements of godly dominion. Anything short of this is a contempt of the supreme authority of God, who declares in His word that He will make a covenant with the very beasts of the field to ensure man’s prosperity in the day of his obedience (Hosea 2: 18).
Excerpt from the “Institutes of Biblical Law” by Rousas John Rushdoony.
See also Chalcedon.edu.