July 5, 2004
"The land must not be sold permanently, because the
land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants"
(Vayikra / Leviticus 25:23).
Recently I was trying to understand some of the root
causes of problems between people groups. My primary
concern had to do with the effects of these root
issues upon people of faith – especially among those
who believe in the God of the Scriptures. While there
are those who attest that Believers are somehow immune
to the negative influences of society, the fact is the
destructive forces at work among the general
population are experienced just as much among
religious and spiritually-minded people. Maybe we
should be immune to the sins of those around us, but
we are not.
The reason why we might fool ourselves into thinking
that we are morally superior to the general population
is that we claim to affirm a higher standard of
morality than that of the general population. We think
that if we say we believe the Bible, then the values
of the Bible will automatically work their way into
and through our lives. But it is not our assertions of
faith and the recitation of creeds that make a
difference in our lives. It is living out the
principles we affirm that causes us to be different.
Sometimes the difference that is seen by others is a
superficial one. Our general commitment of faith may
motivate us to not use bad language and stay away from
certain forms of entertainment, but never fully
integrate into our personal relationships or business
When we allow the truths of Scripture to speak to the
fundamental issues of life, allowing God to address
our root issues, then the foundations of who we are
will be transformed and our lives will begin to
reflect the reality we claim to uphold.
One of those foundational issues has to do with
possessions. Much of human conflict on both the
personal and international realms relates to things.
Wanting what we do not have and preserving what we
already have makes up a very high percentage of our
energy every day of our lives.
The Bible speaks very clearly to this issue. God's
perspective on how we relate to material things is
very different from how most of us see it. In ancient
Israel, the people were not to see themselves as
owners of the land. God was the owner and they were
only tenants. As a result the land was not to be sold
permanently to others.
It is reasonable to ask if Israel's relationship to
the land is a model for all people in every place at
all times. According to Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the
LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who
live in it." The whole earth is God's possession. It
was given to human beings to care for. But instead we
have attempted to take it for ourselves.
Instead of owners, we are to be stewards or caretakers
of the earth and all it produces. How that works out
in terms of the rules and regulations imposed by
governments is one thing, but those of us who claim to
live life from a biblical perspective need to allow
this to get into our hearts.
Paul urged us to live our lives as living sacrifices
(Romans 12:1). This is a concept going back to the
debt Israel owned to God when he freed us from
slavery. We don't belong to ourselves let alone have a
claim on our possessions. We are to handle them with
great care, knowing that they have been put into our
hands by God as part of the fulfillment of his plans
Once we realize that all we have is not our own to do
with as we please, then we will also begin to
understand how we are to share what we have with
others. This attitude will enable us to walk in a new
level brotherhood that we so desperately need.