Property and Love for the Poor

I have written a great deal on how the framework provided by biblical ethics honors and preserves the institution of private property. The argument is not complex. Just as “thou shalt not commit adultery” presupposes and honors the institution of marriage, so also “thou shalt not steal” presupposes and honors the institution of private property.

The private property that is honored is that which comes to a man through the ordinary processes. “Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope” (1 Cor. 9:10). God is the one who gives us the power to get wealth (Dt. 8:18), and it comes up to us from the ground. It does not float down upon us from the state.

We learn the principle when learning to love the haves — but it applies even more to the have nots. When a people are being liberated from covetousness, envy, and the larceny resident in every socialist scheme, they need to learn to mortify this sin in the presence of a neighbor who has manicured lawns, a red convertible, and a beautiful wife (Ex. 20:17). Learning what love means in this instance means learning how to hate the covetousness that arises so easily under every human sternum. Love that is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:10) is a love that does no harm to its neighbor. Listed among the things that are harmful and destructive to our neighbor is covetousness (Rom. 13:9). This is why it is so necessary to elect men who fear God and hate covetousness (Ex. 18:21). And it should go without saying that you can’t hate covetousness if you don’t even know what it is.

But we must insist on something else. Mortifying covetousness is not just a blessing to the fat cats. In his magnificent book The Mystery of Capital, Hernando de Soto demonstrates how a societal refusal to recognize property rights by means of honoring and protecting clear title is one of the central reasons why poor people are locked in grinding poverty. Where property is not respected, property (whenever it is acquired) hides. And when property hides, it cannot come out into the daylight and do useful work. The useful work it could do is that of lifting the people involved out of poverty. But in order for property to be able to do this most beneficent thing, it has to be able to come out into public view and not be assaulted or confiscated. In short, property must be safe, and it cannot be safe whenever the people are envious and covetous. Perfectly Legal

This is why we must love liberty and hate every form of coercive theft. Making that coercive theft “legal” by sanctioning it society-wide only serves to make everything far worse. Legalizing activities prohibited by the Ten Commandments does not successfully whitewash the sin. If something is perfectly appalling, we do not fix it by nodding sagely and saying, “You know, the ways their laws are structured . . .”

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David Smith
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David Smith

“But,” I can hear chambers of commerce, zoning boards, and other representatives of the corporatocracy saying, “what about all that good we’ve done by reallocating private property for the public good, including power plants, roads, new corporate parks, shopping centers, housing, etc.?” And they’ll argue that they reimbursed the owners at “a fair market value”! I’ll admit, I’m “extreme” about this, thinking that for all the “good” that has been done through the “reallocation” of property via (unconstitutional) taxation, eminent domain, zoning, etc., it was nonetheless accomplished through theft; any good or blessing was God’s accomplished in spite of the… Read more »

Matt Petersen
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Matt Petersen

You’re still confusing the sin of theft with the crime of theft.

Joshua
Member
Joshua

Pastor Wilson,
Your posts on Liberty have been phenomenal! I am having difficulty finding the post where you kicked it all off. Would you be able to direct me there?
Thank you!

timothy
Guest
timothy

I thought about your series when I read this yesterday:

Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.

First, kindness to animals is a good thing; when hunting, respect the kill–do it with right regard
Second. “his beast” implies ownership.
Third, with ownership comes responsibility.

Thank you for this series, Pastor.

t

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

Also, a circular argument does not become valid by attaching “Thus saith The Lord” to it, nor by calling it simple.

Matthias
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Matthias

“a societal refusal to recognize property rights by means of honoring and protecting clear title is one of the central reasons why poor people are locked in grinding poverty”

Really? All the college kids *I* talk to say that’s all because of white privilege.

Seth B.
Guest
Seth B.

Matt: Is “Scripture interprets Scripture” circular?

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

Seth: No. But that’s not what’s going in here. Exegesis is good. But Pr. Wilson has used none. His only defense if his eisegesis has been to arrogate Scriptural authority to Jefferson and himself, saying that he presupposes Jefferson, and that his own position (which is not Scriptural, as I have shown) is binding on the conscience.

Seth B.
Guest
Seth B.

Matt: “When a man opens a pit, or when man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.” Ex. 21:33 Can you tell me what “owner” in this passage means?

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

Pr. Wilson At Tim noted, you’ve had a lot of rhetoric, but have refused to address any of the fundamental issues I’ve raised–but instead, as I said in my email, have slandered me, and encouraged others to slander me–all the while claiming that I am in sin and a fool for thinking Scriptural claims should be backed by exegesis, not eisegesis. I’ll look at the post, but there are more fundamental issues (relating to your arrogation of Scriptural authority to yourself, your slander of me, and your refusal to actually make an exegetical case, resorting to empty, vacuous, eisegetical propaganda… Read more »

Matthew Paul Abel
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Matthew Paul Abel

Matt Petersen,
Perhaps I’ve lost track, but I’m still unable (pun!) to find your argument that our current taxation system is not theft.
If you concur our taxation is theft, then likewise I’ve yet to locate where you articulate this in a legitimate way – in contrast to the Wilsonian ways you find illegitimate.
Please do share; there’s no need to develop every point you’ll make. Just give us an outline.
Thanks, I hope.

prayersofadoration
Member

The argument is not complex.

It’s not hard to understand but it is hard for some people to accept.

RFB
Guest
RFB

Mr. Petersen, You have Pastor Wilson and said that he “…slandered me, and encouraged others to slander me…” Can you please provide some evidence of that? Was this something that took place outside of the purview of the venue of this site? The reason that I am asking is because I have read many posts here and have never seen anything encouraging me or others to slander. I would also add that the slander that you allege must be referring to verbal communications, or otherwise you have conflated the charges of slander and libel. Additionally, an affirmative defense (and quite… Read more »

Matt Petersen
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Matt Petersen

Matthew Abel, The issue in those terms is really too broad for a comment thread. There are, I believe, issues of theft in our current taxation (as in all), but they are in the abuse of the system, not in the use. There are, I believe, (I, not the Lord), that there are fundamental issues, but these lay in our “technologization” of social structures (both the left and the right do this)–Albert Borgmann’s work is excellent here–and our lust for growth (both the left and the right do this). The short answer is that ownership is a form of mastery,… Read more »

Matt Petersen
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Matt Petersen

RFB: He has consistently responded to me by turning what I said into something foolish (but still recognizably mine), and then responding flippantly to that. It’s just him being obnoxious, and using empty rhetoric to achieve mastery, and bind the future, and I mostly ignored it, and kept patiently restating my case; except that by treating my objections flippantly, and restating them, so they are recognizably mine, yet, have become foolish, he is making the case that I am a fool, and not worth answering. A fool raising silly objections, a dilettante intellectual, who can raise quibbling objections, but misses… Read more »

Matt Petersen
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Matt Petersen

Even if I am foolish to raise it, the objection itself is a real objection. And his rhetoric is a lie about the objection, and, as such, about me, for being the sort of foolish person who raises such a foolish objection. Again, perhaps I’m foolish for trying to speak here, or to raise the objection in my station, or whatever. But if so, that’s the folly, not the objection, and to lie about the objection (which he manifestly has) is to lie about me and to slander me. (At least, if he claims, as he several times has, that… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

Mr. Petersen,

To make my post as clear as possible, you have publicly accused Pastor Wilson of two separate and serious charges: slander, and encouraging others to do the same. When you wrote the post accusing him of these, that was your charging document.

You now have the obligation to prove those charges, or find yourself in the position of making false accusations. Rhetorical flourishes and protestations do not amount to evidence or proof.

Prove, as in, with evidence that supports and substantiates against a reasonable defense.

Sir, the onus is upon you to either prove your case or retract your accusation.

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

RFB: One could say the exact thing you did about Pr. Wilson and his “exegesis”. To make my post as clear as possible, you have publicly accused the U.S. government with a serious charge: theft. When you wrote the post accusing him of these, that was your charging document. You now have the obligation to prove those charges, or find yourself in the position of making false accusations. Rhetorical flourishes and protestations do not amount to evidence or proof. Prove, as in, with evidence that supports and substantiates against a reasonable defense. Sir, the onus is upon you to either… Read more »

Matt Petersen
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Matt Petersen

As to your claim that I have not proved anything: I think I have. He has repeatedly and consistently lied about what I have said, taking a strong objection and rephrasing it something foolish, with the effect, that he has been arguing that I am, in that respect, foolish. The two conditions are met: lies about what I said, and lies that damage my reputation. If you don’t think that proves anything, you need to argue it, not just call it rhetorical flourish. Here are quotes: This also addresses the objections of those who believe that I have inexplicably set… Read more »

Matt Petersen
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Matt Petersen

This post also slanders me: http://dougwilson.wpengine.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/answering-some-ire-fire.html

As I said there, I wasn’t irate, only addressing (accurately) the character of his post, and to call it “ire fire” without evidence is simply slander–or at best, it is a, how did you phrase it, “a public accusation of a serious charge” and therefore he “has the obligation to prove those charges, or find [him]self in the position of making false accusations.”

(Though, he used the power as pastor and as blog owner to allow him to make the accusation without needing to substantiate it.)

timothy
Guest
timothy

The accompanying cartoon is right out of the Occupy movement–including the costumes–especially the costumes.

timothy
Guest
timothy

Mathew Peterson Wrote: The short answer is that ownership is a form of mastery, and so, by creation, no one owns anything. We are servants of neighbor and land–servus servorum dei, servants of all the Cat Jeoffrys, the “servant of the living God” Mathew, this is wrong by ommision. Ownership is a form of mastery; it is equally a form of submission or service or (can I buy an analogy from the biblically educated, please? (: ). This ‘yes/and/both’ pattern is repeated many places in scripture. Look at the parable of the talents. The men where held to account by… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

Mr. Petersen, I am not addressing the underlying debate about the subject matter; you are free to debate the premises of the titled posts, subject to the privileges extended to you by the owner of the house you occupy. Debate about the subject matter is irrelevant to your charge. There is a substantive difference, with a distinction, between using pejorative argumentation in deconstructing an opponents position, as opposed to publicly charging a person with defamation. You, in writing, accused Pastor Wilson of defamation of your person. (And, btw, because you have alleged that it was a written defamation, that does… Read more »

Matthew Paul Abel
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Matthew Paul Abel

Matt Petersen, is this your thesis statement?
“The short answer is that ownership is a form of mastery, and so, by creation, no one owns anything.”
Then in closing you acknowledge that the Native Americans were victims of theft.

How can there be theft if no one owns anything?

Robert
Guest
Robert

Then why did the Founding Fathers, supposedly Godly men, include eminent domain in the constitution?

Katecho
Member

Matthew Paul Abel wrote: Then in closing you acknowledge that the Native Americans were victims of theft. How can there be theft if no one owns anything? As an apparent collectivist, it seems that Matthew Petersen is distinguishing between private property and collective property. Petersen wrote: “Because of the fall, and because of the tragedy of the commons, we are better at realizing that vocation when there is an institute of something like private property (though not all private property is remotely like Capitalistic “private property”–in Israel, property was not private, but belonged first to the Nation, then to the… Read more »

Katecho
Member

On the simple question of State theft, the straightforward example that stares us all in the face is the $17.7 trillion in debt that we have accumulated at the expense of some future generation that is obligated to pay it back, with interest, and yet without any representation. (The interest on this national debt is already near 25% of federal income tax revenue, and that is relative to present, historically low, interest rates.) Our apparent cultural indifference toward this ongoing, and mounting, debt screams that we have become like Matthew Petersen. We just can’t see it as systemic theft. Apparently… Read more »

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

katecho,

I didn’t say any of the things you attribute to me in your lengthy comment, and I do not appreciate your lies about what I believe. And your most recent, particularly the line “Our apparent cultural indifference toward this ongoing, and mounting, debt screams that we have become like Matthew Petersen.” is uncalled for. Knock it off.

timothy
Guest
timothy

Related to this theft is the theft incurred against those who do not participate in the culture of debt. Their savings is rotted away by a deliberate monetary policy of purposeful (manipulated) inflation. This can only be accomplished because of the issue of new (valueless) fiat currency (by private banks) and the direct control of interest rates (by the same private central planners). The new fiat currency is being used by the cronies of the current administration, which stand first in line to spend it (or loan it at interest). This is a theft by dilution of everyone else’s wealth.… Read more »

J. Srnec
Guest
J. Srnec

Katecho,

Since those not yet born will inherit the wealth as well as the debt, and the former is far in excess of the latter, is it still theft?

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

Matthew Abel That it theft is defined as “attempting to make the thing you own, a thing I own” is not uncontroversial. It could just as easily be “attempting to make something I do not own something I own.” With the first definition, yes, thee cannot “be theft if no one owns anything.” But with the second (or any myriad of other definitions of theft) that does not apply. I’ve offered several examples of what we usually call theft that the first definition excludes–for instance the theft of Native lands, or making things mine, and so not my wife’s–and which,… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

Mathew,

Could you please provide simple examples of your argument in practice without the additional explanations?

Please fill in the blanks below:

The following are examples of Theft:
a.1
a.2
a.3

a.n

The following are not examples of Theft
b.1
b.2
b.3

b.n

The following are often given as examples of Theft but really are not:

c.1
c.2
c.3

c.n

I am just trying to understand your argument, and the above would be helpful.

thx.

t

Katecho
Member

Matt Petersen wrote: And your most recent, particularly the line “Our apparent cultural indifference toward this ongoing, and mounting, debt screams that we have become like Matthew Petersen.” is uncalled for. Knock it off. Petersen continues to be slippery as an eel about why he thinks governmental theft is incidental and not systemic, but I’m afraid that I just don’t see any other conclusion than that he simply doesn’t care about the binge spending and mounting trillions of dollars of federal debt. I don’t recall him ever even bothering to acknowledge how running up that debt constitutes a systemic theft… Read more »

Katecho
Member

timothy wrote: “From that, I think that the organized church should establish its own non-fiat currencies and financial establishtments.” This is an interesting question, and I think it deserves more thought and study. The Church definitely has a financial role (remember that Judas held the charity purse for the disciples). I think that perhaps a case could also be made that, in stewarding charity for the needy, the Church might choose to either give outright to a family, or optionally choose to aid a family with a loan that must be repaid. This doesn’t entail charging interest, but if the… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Matt Petersen wrote: “Another example would be a theft of looks or intelligence, which is portrayed in, for instance, vampire: Vampires steal the youth of their victims.” Apparently, Petersen’s argument is that Wilson is wrong to say that “thou shalt not steal” presupposes “private property” because… well, because Wilson’s notion of theft doesn’t properly take into account the theft of looks and intelligence as stolen from victims by vampires. Case closed! Wilson didn’t take into account “theft” of copyrighted music from music producers either, which would be equally irrelevant to Doug’s point. Wilson did not need to (and was not… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

katecho,

There have been a number of times when I have heard, with a good deal of encouragement, the distant sound of rotors beating the air, on an incoming vector. Your arrival in these threads invariably strikes me in the same fashion.

Fake Herzog
Guest

ketcheo, If I could steal your brain — I would :-) Your responses to the “slippery” Mr. Petersen (my own choice of words might lean to “obfuscatory”) are fantastic. At the end of the day, as near as I can figure out, Mr. Petersen doesn’t like the way Pastor Wilson interprets the 10th Commandment. O.K., but can’t he realize that two interpretations might exist and Pastor Wilson is arguing in good faith for his (eminently reasonable) interpretation? I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. By the way, there is also a perfectly good natural law argument to… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Matt Petersen wrote: “One could say, quoting the Lord, that Moses instituted property (though not private property) because of the hardness of your hearts, but in the beginning it was not so. (And whatever else is true, there was some sort of property in Israel–though not private property–bu we cannot go from there to a claim about property being given to the individual (since it was not in Israel), or to the Gentlies.” Apparently Matt just ignored my Scriptural argument in favor of private property, in Israel, in the example of a home that was not redeemed during the one-year… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

Katecho wrote: A principle to remember is that Christendom is more than just the Church. It’s all spheres of authority working together, acknowledging Christ together. When we see culture unraveling around us, our temptation may be to assign all jurisdiction to the Church to fix the realm, but history has shown us that the Church is just as capable of outgrowing its britches as the State. That would be me. The Financial crisis is a moral crisis. Maybe I need to get my Andrew Jackson* on and stir things up a bit. It is very frustrating to watch the dissolution… Read more »

Tim Enloe
Guest

Regarding the ongoing battle between Doug and Matthew Petersen:

I wonder if it might be helpful to do an old Credenda-style Disputatio, consisting of a series of carefully word-limited posts from each. The word limits would preclude the generally unhelpful character jabs and other rhetorical whizz-bangery, and force a discussion of the actual key points and definitions. Oh, and on such posts, the comments should be closed in advance. Frankly, the “Megadittoes, Doug!” peanut gallery is more than half the problem.

timothy
Guest
timothy

(timothy puts on Katecho hat) Katecho usually responds to arguments in the third person. Katecho never offered why he engaged in such discourse. Initially, I found it somewhat rude, but put it up to the kind of personal quirk that makes life interesting. I think now, I know why Katecho does this. It is a very useful tool for engaging an argument where the person making the argument cannot form one. By utilizing the third-person form, Katecho is edifying, instructing and building up the Body of Christ. It appears that “The Full Armor of God” includes this rhetorical technique. I… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

Mr. Enloe, I do not think that repeated accusations of lying, slander, personal defamation and encouraging others to perform the same acts can be characterized as mere “unhelpful character jabs” or “rhetorical whizz-bangery”. I view said accusations as serious and harmful allegations against Pastor Wilson., both to his office and as a man. It is one thing to enter into hard edged debate regarding a subject (when men sharpen men like iron, sparks can fly), but making the aforementioned allegations crosses a line of behavior. It is one thing to deride a person’s argument and ideas; it is quite another… Read more »

William Wallace
Guest
William Wallace

RFB: Thank you for putting the current discussion in its proper light. This series of posts has a great deal of potential for all of us to sort out what does the Bible really say about the relationships among property, stewardship and authority, and I look forward to the resumption of serious discussion among those who are willing to engage in iron sharpening iron instead of false accusations.

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

late chi

You’re misrepresenting me. I will not respond to you till you can state my position sympathetically, in a form I would recognize.

More than one commentator who has interacted with you has pointed out the regular mischaracterizations. They need to stop.

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

Er…katecho. Stupid autocorrect.

timothy
Guest
timothy

@Mathew Peterson.

It is not Katecho’s responsibility to make your case for you.

Honestly, with your muddled writing and ‘arguments’, I am still trying to figure out what the heck you are arguing.

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that you are incapable of formulating a coherent case for your position (whatever it is).

God Bless.

t

Katecho
Member

Matt Petersen continues his personality protests, which seems to be his favorite pastime. Not a peep about the $17.7 trillion in federal debt that we are passing down to someone else to have to pay back. Not a peep about the QE fiat money pumped into the banker class cronies to bail them out and dilute the savings of everyone else. How are these not examples of systemic theft and corruption by the government? Can we even get an acknowledgment on the substance of Wilson’s topic? Petersen wanted examples, but now he just ignores them so he can nurse his… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

katecho, I enjoy Robert Rector’s scholarship, and thought you might enjoy this: “or the past 50 years, the government’s annual poverty rate has hardly changed at all. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15 percent of Americans still live in poverty, roughly the same rate as the mid-1960s when the War on Poverty was just starting. After adjusting for inflation, federal and state welfare spending today is 16 times greater than it was when President Johnson launched the War on Poverty. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all official poverty in… Read more »