“4 “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart?” Acts 5.
Ananias and Saphira owned property and they sold it and gave part of the proceeds of the sell to the church for charity. What they did was not wrong. It could have been a great good. But the trespass was in their deception to seek self-glory. They lied to God and man and God did not take it lightly. But as to ownership, the husband and wife owned property and it was their to do with as they pleased. This is an important principle.
The answer to both questions by Peter to the man and woman was, ‘Yes, the property was yours and after the sale, the proceeds were yours.” Ownership and possession of property is establish in Scripture.
Without ownership of property, there is no such thing as a free will offering. David would not give to God what cost him nothing. He would not give to God what was another man’s possession. The gift has meaning because it cost David something. A sacrifice should be a sacrifice from YOU. A Will designates where your property will go after your death. But without ownership of possessions, there is not even ownership of self. If a man or a government can say, I own all of your possessions, then even the labor that went into acquiring those possessions is also owned by the person taking them.
In the Bible there was ownership of land, houses, animals, jewelry, and whatever a person could work for or purchase belonged that person. God’s commandment, “thou shall not steal”, is His validation of this principle that things belong to people.
Please don’t get sidetracked with the caveat that all things belong to God though that’s a facet of this discussion, as God has made us stewards of his possessions. We are to be good stewards of our possessions which God has given. But the discussion of ownership is addressing the horizontal, not vertical, nature of or possessions in the realm of man. In the realm of man, God’s respects the ownership and commands that men not steal from one another.
What about taxes? Taxes are the taking of something that belongs to you, right? In theory, taxes are supposed to be a transaction where you pay for the services of the government, for example, services that maintain the peace and law. The admonition to give “what belongs to Caesar” supports the idea of that we owe something to Caesar for his service of praising good and punishing evil people. But what we owe has its limit. Does the government which derives its authority from God (Rom 13:1ff) have the right to take as much as it pleases from the citizen? Does it have the right to take, let’s say, 100% of a man’s earnings? No, because that’s slavery. What about 99%? 90%? No, a government cannot take your earnings to the point that you may not provide for your own family, which a man is commanded to do, 1 Tim. 5:8. Many governments can and do this very thing, but it’s immoral. If a government confiscated your wages to such an extent that you could not support the church or charity, that would be wrong. Paul said, “He who steals must steal no longer but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need“, Eph. 4:28. How can it be right for a government to take from your wages so that you not only cannot support your family or the church, but also that you have nothing to share with those who are in need, Titus 3:13,14?
Stealing is a sin whether it is by an individual or by a government. Both are wrong, legislated or not. We own what we have earned through our labor and what has been given to us.
So the question is what are we doing with what we own? Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce;”. With your possessions are you honoring the LORD? Are we working with our hands and supporting our families? Are we supporting the church and doing charity that meets pressing needs? With ownership of property comes responsibility to use it to the glory of God. Said in love. – Dan