The act of creation (Gen 1:3, 5, 7, etc.) establishes the Personal Eternal Triune Creator as landlord: He owns everything (Deut 10:14; Job 41:11; Ps 89:11; cf. 1 Kg 21:1-3). Indeed everything exists for God (Heb 2:10) though at present we do not see everything subject to Him (Heb 2:8; cf. 1 Co 15:27-28). The fact of naming creation (Gen 1:5, 8, 10) asserted God’s authority over His world (cf. 2 Kg 23:34; 24:17) . Claim over all the earth’s wealth (cf. Ps 50:10-12) indicates The Creator is in need of nothing (1 Kg 8:27; Acts 17:25). Not only does God have no rivals in creation (Is 44:24; 45:12, 18) but creation knows her place (cf. Ps 104) even though humans may try to replace God with His creation (Is 44: 6-20; Rom 1:21-25).
The declaration that creation is “good” (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, etc.) establishes man as tenant: humans manage everything (Gen 1:28; Lev 25:23-24; 1 Chron 29:10-20). Earth is given to humanity (Ps 115:16) yet the “alien” clause identifies human dependency. Responsibility is established both toward God and for possessions. We are not to use people and love things (Lev 25:14-17) but love people and use things (Lev 25:25-28). Cultivation (“work”, Gen 2:15) demands a literal guiding of the ground toward increased development. Conservation (“take care”, Gen 2:15) stipulates guarding against neglect of the planet. Animals are “given you’re your hands” (Gen 9:2) and even said to be “tamed” (Jas 3:7) by man. Animal husbandry was one of the twin essentials of an agricultural society (cf. Ex 22; Deut 22:1-4, 6-7; etc.). Resting (maintaining) the animals (Ex 20:10; Deut 5:14) provided for longevity of resources by acknowledging God’s program for sustaining life. Horticultural laws throughout the Pentateuch insisted upon care in custody for what has been given. Jublilee, for example, was a celebration (Lev 25:8-13) and a liberation (25:18-22) of property.
“Ownership” must be redefined within the Landlord/tenant relationship. While private property is a cornerstone of Hebraic law (Ex 20:15, 17) its profit was to help the community (cf. Ex 22:25-27; 23:4-9). The oft used word “stewardship” literally means to be “keeper” of the household. So everything is a gift of God. And what God has given as a gift must not become God. Corrupt views of wealth abound, however. Asceticism—where poverty equals virtue and wealth equals greed—is not set forth in Scripture. In addition, materialism is not what we possess but what possesses us. Communism is just as odious. Premised upon redistribution of resources, ownership is forcibly wrested from individuals into the hands of a dictator.
Wealth is created by God and given for the good of humanity. Teaching on resources produce the following guidelines for service in the Christian community:
(1) God, not humans, owns everything;
(2) custodial use of the earth is dependent upon faithful, responsible, creative people;
(3) giving is to be “open-handed” versus “tight-fisted” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11);
(4) handling creation properly should be prompted in its consideration for the next generation;
(5) proper use of creatures and creation that will help us to do work (animals/money/tools) including proper maintenance, quality vs. cost considerations, wise purchases, etc.;
(6) history curricula should focus on rich and poor people from the vantage point of corrupt governments as much as it might corrupt businesses;
(7) teaching on private ownership and responsible stewardship should be wedded (Lev 19:9-10; Deut 15:1-11; 23:24-25; 24:19-22);
(8) wealth produces accountability and opportunity to benefit all (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17-19).
Dr. Mark Eckel teaches Leadership, Education, & Discipleship at Capital Bible Seminary, Washington, D. C. This theological statement on wealth was originally created for the ACSI enabler “School Wide Biblical Integration” in 2002 and has been published in various venues since.