Some might want to think it a shame that in my summary of my position on property, I channeled Jefferson, that noted infidel and skeptic. This is what I wrote:
“We are created by God, and it is self-evident that we were endowed by that Creator with certain rights that are inalienable, and that among these rights are the right to life, liberty, and property.”
For my part, I think the Jefferson hat tip is a shame also, but for different reasons. I think it is shame that a noted infidel and skeptic had a far more biblical understanding of these issues than do many contemporary Christians. That really is a shame.
I summarized there what Jefferson wrote, but did not go into why he wrote it. He wrote those wonderful words because he was at the tail end of a long history of Christian intellectual development. Some of the players in that development had their own problematic issues — I’m looking at you, John Locke — but there really was real progress in understanding civil liberty, political rights, property rights, and so on. To point to certain phrases and dismiss the thought because the expressions of Locke or Jefferson can be found in them is to make an exceedingly superficial judgment. Not only is it a prime example of the genetic fallacy, it even gets the genetics wrong. Before Jefferson, there was Samuel Rutherford and Phillipe du Plessis-Mornay and Algernon Sidney.
So that is why Jefferson wrote what he did. He was an infidel worker with Christian materials. So Christians today need to comprehend what was said, and also to comprehend that what was said is the truth of God. Try it this way:
“We are created by God (Gen. 1:27), and it is self-evident that we were endowed by that Creator with certain rights that are inalienable (Gen. 9:6), and that among these rights are the right to life (Ex. 20:13; Dt. 17:6), liberty (2 Cor. 3:17, and property (Ex. 20:15,17).”
Look. Let me spell it out. If my neighbor has no property — and by this I mean property that is actual property; inviolate, protected by God from all comers, including the state — then my neighbor is property. There are no other options. He is either a free man or he is a slave. A man without property is property. A man whose rights to property are not honored and recognized as having been bestowed on him by Almighty God is chattel.
Now it is possible for modern theorists to argue against his rights to property, but it is not possible to argue this without simultaneously relegating that man to the status of chattel. So if you are going to go in that direction, at least have the courage of your convictions. Herding everyone on to the plantation really ought not to be described as liberation.