The commandment of the Lord was against the inordinate desire to have what belonged to another.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 5:21)
Ahab, King of Israel, coveted the land of Naboth and sulked because the man refused to sell or trade his land. When Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, heard of this, she plotted against Naboth by lining up worthless men to bear false witness against him. In order to gain a piece of property, they testified that Naboth “cursed God and the king” (1 Kgs. 21:13). Upon this false testimony, Naboth was stoned to death and Jezebel told her husband, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth,…” (1 Kgs. 21:15). What can come of coveting is thievery and murder.
In the United States, with the recent KELO V. CITY OF NEW LONDON ruling by the Supreme Court (To learn more on this ruling, go here), it is much easier to take a man’s property. Sandra Day O’Connor, a sometime liberal Supreme Court justice, said in her dissent of the ruling: “The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.” Justice O’Connor called it a “perverse result”! She could have added that God commanded against coveting your neighbor’s possessions.
Justice O’Connor, with whom The Chief Justice, Scalia, and Justice Thomas joined in the dissent said,
“Over two centuries ago, just after the Bill of Rights was ratified, Justice Chase wrote:
‘An act of the Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority … . A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean… . [A] law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it.'” Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388 (1798) (emphasis deleted).
And she added:
“Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded–i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public–in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings “for public use” is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property–and thereby effectively to delete the words “for public use” from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent.”
The private developer now has the way, if he is wise to not mention what he might gain from the confiscation of another’s property, to clear every captivating shoreline, scenic hill, and boulevard of homes, small businesses, and church buildings in the name of community development and public good. Ahab would have his property and Jezebel would be proud.
The Scriptures say,
“Woe to those who scheme iniquity, who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, for it is in the power of their hands. They covet fields and then seize them, and houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.” (Micah 2:1,2)
When the courts side with the powerful to confiscate the property of the powerless, it is unrighteousness that prevails.