July 5, 2004

Ownership
"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 
dealings.

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 
and purposes.

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.