It is one of the big disagreements between the two political parties. Who does property belong to? Obama and the Democratic Party believe in redistribution of wealth…that is taking property from one person and giving it to another simply on the basis of how much you have. It is their way of trying to bring about equal outcomes. It is mostly accomplished with things such as regulations and taxes. The real problem here is that this means Democrats believe property ultimately belongs to the government or at least society as a whole with the government being responsible for the equal distribution of it. You cannot hold to the idea of re-distribution of wealth and believe in the principle of private ownership of property. They directly contradict each other. Another way to put it is this:
Conservatives believe that property belongs to the individual and that the individual gives a certain amount of this property in the form of taxes to the government for basic services, defense, and to help those in dire need. Progressives believe that property belongs to the government and that the government allows the individual to keep a certain amount of this property based upon what the government deems is fair.
This is the mindset that the two groups start with. Of course what we have in this country is a bit of a mix of the two philosophies. Progressives have kept conservatives from putting in a true capitalist system based upon private property and conservatives have prevented progressives from implementing a communist style economy based upon complete government control. All that being said, who truly owns all the property?
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1)
This along with many other verses illustrates the obvious fact that God created everything and everything ultimately belongs to him. But within this construct of sovereignty, God affirms time and time again throughout scripture that property belongs to the individual and not to the government or society as a whole. This puts Christians who support progressive economic policies in conflict with Biblical teaching, albeit their intentions may be good. Here are several verses that support this stance:
“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)
The Idea of stealing implies that the property first must be owned by an individual. If property is owned by society as a whole, then you are not stealing. You are simply using a resource that is owned by the collective. The Tenth Commandment mirrors this same idea:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
To covet once again first implies that an individual owns the thing you are coveting. There are numerous other passages that detail this concept to include Exodus 21:28-36, Exodus 22:1-15, and Deuteronomy 22:1-4, Deuteronomy 23:24-25.
Along these same lines are verses on property boundaries:
“You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess” (Deuteronomy 19:14)
Moving a neighbor’s landmark would be the equivalent of stealing his land. The fact that there were property boundaries shows that property belonged to the individual. This concept is mirrored in Proverbs 22:28 and Proverbs 23:10. But land and material possessions are not the only things that are covered under the label of property. I did not give a definition of property, but certainly wages earned fall under this category as well. This note is important because the general means of re-distributing property is through taxation of income. Government control over private business can also fall under the issue of privately owned property
I think a legitimate question could then be…Why would God promote individual ownership of property? It once again becomes a heart issue. We have already discussed that wealth in itself is not inherently evil, but having wealth and property owned by individuals does give individuals an opportunity to love others through sharing what they have been given by God and to show thanks to God for these blessings.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Col 3:15)
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17)
A second legitimate question is why a government’s role as a re-distributor of wealth is so wrong. We first have the issue of private ownership of property vs. communal ownership. But what about the government’s responsibility for the welfare of its people found in Romans. To answer this I would say that there is a big difference in using general tax revenue to help citizens in need versus trying to redistribute more equitable outcomes. This will be covered more in posts on welfare and taxes. The bottom line here is that they are trying to take money from those with wealth just because “they can afford it”. This amounts to nothing more than stealing. This is especially egregious considering that this money is not really used to help the poor, but in many cases used to promote an immoral agenda. Or just otherwise wasted.
It is more than just stealing though; it is an issue of treating all people fairly and justly no matter their status in life.
“You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit.” (Exodus 23:6)
“nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.” (Exodus 23:3)
“To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.” (Proverbs 17:26)
It is just as wrong to treat the rich unfairly because of their wealth as it is to treat the poor unfairly because of their lack of wealth. Yet this is exactly what progressives in the Democratic Party are doing. The tactic is called ‘class warfare’ and was first implemented by early progressives such as FDR and it is still being used today. It is used to gain political power, and not for the benefit of the nation. The bottom line is that it is wrong to burden the wealthy simply because they have wealth. Another reason re-distribution of wealth is wrong Biblically is because inevitably the government will have to promote bad habits and behaviors and punish good habits and behaviors in order to carry out this type of economic policy. Grudem puts it well when he writes:
In other words, equality of possessions could not be maintained apart from penalizing good habits (hard work, productivity, frugality) and rewarding bad habits (profligate spending, wastefulness, frittering time on unproductive activities). The longer such “redistribution of wealth” continued in this hypothetical city, the more the productive people would just decide to give up (for they cannot enjoy the fruits of their labor) and the society would spiral downward into poverty and despair”
Punishing good and rewarding bad is the very opposite of the purpose of government. But it goes further than the means; the purpose of government is not fulfilled by the end state of these policies either. History has shown that countries who try to implement re-distribution through socialist or communists style governments end up with an entire country full of poverty. (If you do not count the elites who run such governments). The obvious example is the former USSR, but there has never been a successful case of using the economic policy the Democratic Party is promoting. Keep in mind the economic problems that are occurring right now in Europe are a direct result of the policies Obama would like to fully implement here. Just for added support, I would like to briefly show three more passages from scripture. The first is a passage that it is often used by liberals to show that the Bible does indeed support communal ownership of property. It is from the end of Acts 4:
“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:32-37)
Here are several points that I believe are good to think about while reading this passage (1) This is a passage describing the early church, it is not a passage that is teaching on civil government…everything described was going on within the church and not outside it (2) There is no government entity taking property and re-distributing it nor is there any command from a government for the people to do so (3) There was not even a command from the Church to do this; the members of the early church were doing this on their own because some members of the church had need. They were doing this out of the gladness of their heart (4) One of the points of this passage is actually to show what community should be like within the Church. Sometimes this might even mean sacrificial giving to help those that have need within the Church. Obviously everyone did not give everything away because then they would be in need and obviously the passage does not support giving handouts to those unwilling to work because that would contradict scripture on the idea of work. What you have here are those who have given up everything…even possibly leaving their families to join a community in Christ. There was a real need for some and others in the Church were happy to provide for this need. The context is also important. If you read on into the beginning of Acts 5 we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira:
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. (Acts 5:1-6)
“While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart?” When Peter said these words, he was emphasizing that the land belonged to Ananias and it was his to dispose of as he wished. Making it extremely clear that the end of Acts 4 was not about promoting communal ownership of property or Church/Government re-distribution of this property. Like before, it is about a personal decision what to do with the property he owned. God did not strike him because he did not give all his money to the apostles…it was because he lied to God about how much he was sacrificing.
Another example that shows the Bible does not promote such government control comes from the warning in 1 Samuel.
“So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young menand your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:10-18)
This is a passage that is often used to show what men with power will do. There is always a tendency to abuse this power. This is why our founding fathers created a limited government and warned us about dangers of a powerful central government. Progressives today have ignored both the Biblical warning and the warning from the founders. The evidence that this warning is true is all around us. A relevant point for this post is that our government today is indeed taking money from the people and using it not to help those in need, not to better the welfare of the people of the nation, but instead for political purposes and for their friends’ enrichment.
After what I would call a somewhat thorough analysis of proper view of property in the Bible, and after claiming that the Obama administration as a representative of the Democratic Party are promoting the opposite, I think it is only fair to show some examples.
The Obama Record on Re-Distribution and the Wealthy
- Here is audio of a 1998 speech by Barack Obama where he states that he believes in re-distribution.
- Obama appointed Dr. Donald Berwick to head Medicare with a recess appointment. Dr. Berwick made comments supporting redistribution of wealth through healthcare (which was why he was a recess appointment) and is an open supporter of Britain’s failing socialized healthcare system.
- This article from 2010 shows a shift in those supported by government programs while private pay decreases…redistribution in action.
- The infamous Joe the Plumber video where Obama says he believes in taxing the rich to spread the wealth
- 2001 Interview with a Chicago Radio Station where Obama shows once again his support for re-distribution of wealth…this time through the courts. But probably more importantly it shows his misunderstanding of the Constitution itself (ending with the spreading the wealth comment to Joe the Plumber). I wrote a 2 part post on this particular interview. Part 1. Part 2.
- Bill O’Reilly Interview where he calls income re-distribution neighborly. In the video he also makes a comment on how it is ok becuase the wealthy can afford it, an issue I addressed above.
- More video I do believe at this point there should be no argument that Obama indeed believes in the re-distribution of wealth. Although it is sometimes veiled, as seen in these videos sometimes it is not.
- Obama has significant connections with the Democratic Socialists of America. This page describes these connections . They include being endorsed by the organization, speaking at their events and numerous apppointments in his administration. If you would like more insight into some of the people in Obama’s administration here is one link, and another. His appointments show the tendency of the Democratic Party to put people into positions of power that do not hold to the Biblical view on economic issues (among other things…as you can see with the links). The titles on the links are sometimes dramatized, and I have not checked all of them, but they do list the pertinent people that should worry you as a Christian.
- We had the GM (list of articles relating to GM, its takeover, and its illegal restructuring) and the Chrysler government takeovers. For the first time in US history a President fired the leader of a private corporation and said he would not hesitate to do it again.
- The same thing occurred with the Banks…here is a specific article on Citibank , but there were many others such as the infamous AIG as well. In some cases it was a back door nationalization of banks.
With the risk of going on forever, I will stop with the examples. I know there are probably a ton that others could throw out. There will be more with the next post on taxes, but from what we have so far it is clear what Obama’s position is on this issue. Personally, I think it is a result of all of those shady influences on his life that the media assured us were not important during the run up to the last election. Perhaps they did not think they were important because they also believe in this radical departure from the Biblical and ultimately founding principles of our nation. I think we would be naive to believe that the influence of people such as Reverend Wright has not affected President Obama’s misplaced moral argument. The link I provided is to an article I wrote on this influence in September of 2008. Perhaps it will hold more water now that we have experienced a term under President Obama. A term that has been characterized by economic policy that is not based upon Biblical principle.