Self-Ownership: Comprehensive Christian Ethic

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, May 31, 2017 0 comments

by David Odegard

Recognizing that I own myself means that I own my past, present, and future. Only I can give these to God, or anyone else for that matter. I give my past to God by surrendering the product of past labor and investment. I worked for money, I was paid, and the money I have in my pocket is the “fruit” of my past. Or perhaps I planted seeds in the ground by future self will reap the rewards of those planted seeds. Planting is planning for future reward, even when it means sacrifice in the present. Or perhaps I tromped through three feet of snow to feed cattle in the grey-light of winter so that I would have food for my family.

The “fruit” of my past might be the results of a lack of investment and a lack of trust in God. Perhaps I didn’t sow. Maybe I ate the seed corn and slept through the planting season. Maybe I let the cows die or refused to work. I would plunge my hand into an empty pocket. That would be the result of my past too. One of the aspects of God that staggers me is that He not only forgives me, but He redeems my past too. He uses even the negative aspects of the past to glorify Himself in me. This is mercy.

But when someone asserts control over my income, my crops, or the fruit of my labors, they assert that they have a higher claim to my life and liberty than I do since property is the result of investing my life and liberty. If I invent something, it is the product of my mind—I own it and can do whatever I want to do with it. Someone who takes my property without my consent commits theft, since I have been forced to work and denied the product of my life and liberty. My past productivity has been stolen. “Thou shalt not steal.” Any ethical system that does not absolutely protect property rights is not Christian. That is why I have so often said that socialism cannot be Christian, because it assumes that society has the ultimate rights of property, not the individual.

If someone takes my property they steal my past, but if they take my life—obviously they steal my future since I am not allowed to have it. This is murder. It is not Christian. “Thou shalt not commit murder.” Abortion is murder based on this principle. Aborting the baby does not take the future of the mother, it takes the future of the baby. This is why the “my body, my choice” slogan is false.

Finally, if someone takes my liberty, they steal my present; they make me a slave. Slavery can be effected in many ways. Someone can hold a weapon to my head and thereby deny my personal liberty. Someone could deceive me by fraud in some way and make me do something against my will. Someone could kidnap me. Someone could deceive me into taking chemicals which neutralize my free will, etc.

This really is the work of Satan, to kill, steal, and destroy. To kill is to take someone’s life. To steal is to take someone’s property. To destroy is to initiate violence. “For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

If I use my liberty to initiate violence, theft, or murder on someone and so violate their right to life, liberty, and property, I must be punished. This is to act wickedly. In this case, I deserve to lose my liberty (go to jail) as a punishment, or perhaps even my life. Life for life, property for property is the traditional sense of justice. What I take from another, I must repay. This is justice. It is just even if we are not under the Law of Moses. The Law showed what was required of us to call ourselves good. It condemned us all because we are not good. It exposed our need for grace. I know that I need grace because I have not acted according to God’s righteous requirements.

The amazing thing in this universe is that Jesus Christ, God the Son, offers to take the consequences of our wrong actions. Life for life means I deserve to lose my life—but God gives me life and takes the life of His only Son, instead.

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6).

In summary, I cannot be forced to surrender property, life, or liberty by anyone or any group of people. I cannot initiate violence against anyone, nor can I send someone else to initiate violence on my behalf because I do not have that right to begin with. Remember my lesson last week showed that I cannot give away what I don’t own. If I do not have the right to steal, I cannot give the government the right to steal, even for a good purpose. Caesar cannot legitimately give you what he does not own. You must stop asking him to act against property, liberty, and life. Do not expect from Caesar what only God can provide to you.

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