So far within our studies of Organic Economics™, we have been discussing the emergence of trade, money, and social cooperation among our earliest ancestors. We also briefly explored the developments that occurred economically as a result of the pricing effects of money upon trade and commerce.
However, implicit—but also quite obvious—within all those above issues is the undeniable existence of the private ownership of the personal property being exchanged. This is an extremely important element, so let us bring it into our analysis more fully at this point.
What’s Mine is Mine
We can easily conclude from what we know about the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve were quite unconcerned about property rights issues. They had no lack or scarcity; everything they had was freely given to them in abundance by God’s grace and providence; and there was no sin within the human condition at that time. Thus, we can safely envision from those facts that there was no real concern about who owned what until after the Fall of Mankind.
However, when survival and prosperity became dependent upon the “sweat of the brow” (i.e. labor, work), things certainly changed. A certain in-bred (or innate) selfishness was now a part of man’s character—but in some respects, this was for good reasons. Humanity now had to work in order to eat, to clothe themselves, and to establish their homes. Further, once a person had a family started, the labor factor increased significantly with every family member for which they had to provide.
Thus, at this earliest point in mankind’s history, the concept of “personal property” was certainly an automatic and universal understanding. Everything a person possessed—whether by gathering, hunting, farming, or manufacturing—was a product of his or her own labors, and an expenditure of their now-scarce resource, time. Humanity now had a limited lifespan—although longevity was significantly longer within that pristine environment before Noah’s Flood, and prior to the genetic “bottlenecks” that likely occurred post-Flood. Moreover, a humanity’s new mortality was also now subject to unexpected calamity (e.g. violent crime, natural disasters, etc.).
Thus, the need to survive, to provide for one’s family, and to prepare for the unexpected, made those things which a man or woman earned through their labors extra precious in their sight.
The “Good” of Labor
However, focusing more specifically on the economic aspects of our study: The fact still remains that the earth and its contents are in the present possession of mankind (i.e. God owns them ultimately, but He chose to delegate His creation to mankind, as we discussed in The Biblical Genesis of Trade in detail). Further, due to the uncertainties imposed on humanity by mortality and scarcity, people had to preserve—and even defend—what they had earned.
A sense of “mine” and “ours” quickly became heightened within human awareness. In fact, it was considered a divine blessing whenever a man was able to enjoy the fruit of his labor—i.e. his goods, his private property—in peace. Just a few Bible passages from wise Solomon’s writings will confirm this fact:
- There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and make himself enjoy good in his labor. Even this, I have seen, is from the hand of God.
- And also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.
- Also, every man to whom God has given riches and possessions, and the power to enjoy them and to accept his appointed lot and to rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God [to him].
(Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:13; 5:19, The Amplified Bible, emphasis added)
And to honor the ladies within my Scripture citations, please also consider how the right to own and enjoy personal property is certainly not limited by gender:
She rises also while it is yet night, and gives meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considers a field, and buys it: with the fruit of her hands [i.e. profits] she plants a vineyard….Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
(An excerpt from Proverbs 31, KJV, edited to modernize some words for translation purposes, emphasis and bracketed note added)
Confirmed by Commandment
So the concepts of private property—and the rightful ownership thereof—are divinely ordained. This fact is made even more obvious by God’s decrees through His Holy Ten Commandments, as found in Exodus chapter twenty:
- (The 8th) You shall not steal.
- (The 10th) You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
(Exodus 20:15, 17, NIV, emphasis added)
Please take notice of the fact that within verse fifteen above, God forbids theft—a law which obviously implies the ownership of personal property. After all, how can one steal something that does not belong to anybody?
Nevertheless, in order to not leave room for any question in the matter, God then revealed within his Tenth Commandment above His ordained principle of private property ownership (and also revealed the sin-motivation which leads to stealing, i.e. covetousness). So within this commandment, the Lord expressly stated that many of the things here on earth are rightfully possessed by lawful owners. He uses terms such as “his” and “your neighbor’s” to indicate such individual ownership.
So now let us state this Organic Economic™ truth—confirmed also by this brief foray into the Ten Commandments— in a more concise way:
Personal Property: God has Sovereignly ordained that within men’s interactions with each other, the rightful ownership of personal property is a divine principle for ALL people to honor. When this principle is willfully violated, then theft in some form (i.e. larceny, fraud, stealing) is the obvious crime being perpetrated.
The epistles of the New Testament also provide additional confirmation of the Personal Property principle as well. Here are only two quick examples (as we will discuss this in some more detail elsewhere):
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
(2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 and Ephesians 4:28, NKJV, emphasis added)
So Paul reminded the Thessalonians that he had previously given them instructions about the NEED to have a sound work ethic and to respect other people’s things. In this passage, he was chastising them for allowing some people within their midst to ignore his instructions, and to simply wander around as busybodies spreading gossip—while munching on other people’s food!
Regardless of what behavior the indolent ones were exhibiting in addition to their slothfulness, however, it is clear that Paul’s main point was to remind the entire church of his previous instructions about diligence and property rights. “If anyone will not work,” i.e. in contrast to can not work, “neither shall he eat!” “Mooching” off of others within the church was implied to be a violation of other people’s property rights, and thus, a form of stealing. Manipulating others—whether emotionally or religiously—in order to obtain food and money is NOT a legitimate form or work…no matter how “hard” it is for them defraud their neighbor. It is merely theft in God’s eyes.
And contrary to what many people have believed through the centuries, Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of Scripture, was NOT an advocate of Communism, Socialism, or communal property. Because we will explore this fact in detail in the future, I will only provide you a key citation here in which Jesus confirmed the principle of Personal Property ownership within one of His parables (and this is only one of several in which He addressed it to some degree):
“These who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”
But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius [a Roman silver coin, which in Jesus’ day weighted about 16 grains or about .033 troy ounces]?
Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
(An excerpt from the Parable of the Workers, found in Matthew 20:1-16, NIV, emphasis and bracketed note added)
So this passage above—often cited in an effort to justify Communism-style wages (i.e. equal pay among unequal workers)—actually says the opposite. It is a discourse on private property ownership coupled with an admonition towards personal generosity.
The land owner was free to do what he liked with his own silver (i.e. his personal property), and he freely chose to pay a generous wage to the workers whom he hired late in the day. Nobody forced him to distribute his wealth in this manner, nor did anyone take his wealth from him under pretense of “wealth redistribution” as immoral and misguided people often do today (i.e. through the combination of taxation and welfare programs). He made his own decisions regarding his rightfully owned property.
A Theological Side Note: This parable above was also intended by the Lord to be a metaphor for how He will be generous in handing out “wages” (i.e. heavenly rewards) to His faithful saints, though some might not become born-again and join the Body of Christ until right before His Second Coming (i.e. they do not have much time to “work” for Him before He returns).
So why do people (both Christians and non-Christians alike) so frequently misunderstand the financial teachings of Jesus Christ and the New Testament? Because many people throughout history have failed to understand that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Great Lawgiver Himself, Who was manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16; John 1:1-5 and 14-18; Hebrews chapter one). This means that Jesus, the Son of David (Yeshua Ben David in Hebrew) is the very One Who wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger upon stone tablets when on Mount Sinai—and Who later promised that neither one element of His Law, nor the words of His prophets, would be changed until everything is fulfilled:
For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.
(Isaiah 33:22, NIV, describing the character of God as Redeemer, emphasis added)
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
(Matthew 5:17-18, NIV, Jesus’ Own words about Himself, emphasis added)
I will have to refrain from discussing this topic in detail for now. I will write on this subject quite extensively later. The above short discourse is sufficient to make the point that Jesus reaffirmed the Organic Economic™ principle of Private Property ownership within His Own ministry here upon the earth.
Trade: Ownership Transfer
Returning to our Organic Economics™ discussion more specifically: Obviously, whenever a man or woman traded what they had earned through their labors for other goods/services within the marketplace, an ownership transfer occurred through the mutually beneficial exchange.
Using our example from The Biblical Genesis of Money, if Tubal-Cain and Jabal were able to negotiate a trade, ownership of the goods/services/money involved would transfer between parties. If Tubal-Can sold his iron goods in the marketplace for silver, then he conveyed ownership of those goods to the other party in exchange for the money. Then, upon negotiating with his half-brother for a cow, Jabal would then transfer ownership of the cow to Tubal-Cain in exchange for the agreed upon price in silver.
Under most conditions, of course, such property transfers have typically been done with merely a possession-exchange taking place. The parties’ ownership of the exchanged goods/money was evident by their mere possession of the same. However, with regard to transfers of real estate and large transactions (including many merchant transactions with their suppliers) there were “receipts,” or some other form of written legally binding document, transferred along with the goods during the exchange (even in very ancient times).
We will examine such documents, and their effect on ancient trade, as our next topic. In fact, you will likely be quite surprised by their level of sophistication.
A Day in the Market
Sellers within these ancient economies rarely “advertised” their prices upon their wares, as we are accustomed to seeing today in modern stores where retail prices are indicated by labels. Rather, a buyer would generally have to inquire “how much?” and the merchant’s answer would begin the negotiating process. So let us see how that process worked by taking a trip back in time to visit such an “organic” market as we are discussing.
A buyer would enter the marketplace (which was generally located within a public square just inside the city gates, just outside the city gates, and/or at a nearby port). He or she has in mind a particular set of goods that they need or desire, and a certain amount of money to spend in making their purchases—which is not really any different that what we experience today.
Approaching a seller within the marketplace—which had those goods among his or her wares—the buyer would typically inquire about quality and quantity issues and then ask for a sale price. In the earliest days, before coinage created yet another level of monetary standardization within the markets, the wise merchant would then ask to see a sample of the “money” that the buyer intended to use, so as to first determine its substance (typically gold, silver, or a copper alloy) and its purity.
Once the buyer had shown the merchant a sampling of their money, the merchant could then evaluate its purity and would then quote a “price” in that money (as measured by weight) for the goods in question. If the buyer did not like that price, he or she would then begin negotiating with the seller to see if a mutually acceptable price could be obtained. If not, they simply walked away and looked for another vendor perhaps more accommodating—just like consumers might “shop around” for the best price today.
If a mutually agreeable price was reached between the merchant and buyer, however, then the actual exchange transaction would begin. The buyer would bring forth his or her bag of weights and a scale, and then begin to weigh out the amount of money that they had agreed upon—in front of the seller’s very watchful eye. Once the buyer was done, the merchant would then examine the entire proposed payment to ensure it was of the same quality that his original sample had indicated. After such verification, he or she would then re-weigh that same money upon their own scale using their own weights—and again, this was done in front of the buyer’s watchful eye. If there were any weight discrepancies (as there often were in ancient times, due to either differences in manufacturing of the weights, or intentional attempts to deceive), then these differences were subsequently negotiated out between the parties. (And if that negotiation failed, the buyer simply took his or her money, and walked away; and the merchant kept their goods.)
Once both buyer and merchant were BOTH satisfied with the money-portion of the transaction, the exchange would then commence with the delivery of the goods to the buyer. The purchaser would then be very watchful to ensure that both the quantity and quality of the goods being conveyed were according to that which was originally agreed. If there were any discrepancies, these too were negotiated out of the way (with a similar result as above, should that last negotiation fail for some reason). Once both parties were satisfied with the delivery-portion of the transaction, the buyer took their purchase and departed.
Another win-win exchange transaction had been completed, and both parties had obtained their overall objectives.
Though the price may have been “higher” than what the buyer might have ideally wanted (as “free” is always a buyer’s preferred “price”), it was still within their tolerance range. Thus, they were satisfied enough to make the purchase with this merchant rather than to shop elsewhere. Whatever their objective was in making this purchase, it was achieved.
Though the final sale price might have been “lower” than what the merchant would have ideally wanted for those same goods (as “infinite” is always a seller’s preferred “price”), it was within the seller’s tolerance range as well. The seller’s objectives were similarly met to his or her own satisfaction. Consequently, they were willing to agree to the final negotiated price and continue with the exchange.
Neither party forced or coerced the other party to make an exchange (though I am sure they would have tried to influence each other during negotiations). Nor did any third-party government entity force either party to make this exchange, as each party had a God-given right to do with their own property (i.e. their money and goods) whatever they so chose to do. This was a mutually beneficial exchange made between two willing parties.
So this illustration reminds us once again of one of the first Organic Economic™ truths that we discovered within The Biblical Genesis of Trade:
Beneficial Exchange: The freewill mutual exchange of goods and services benefit all parties involved. Society as a whole benefits also as these mutual exchanges proliferate.
- As we learned within Godly Wisdom About Gold, all the universe, including mankind itself, belongs to God as Creator.
- However, God has delegated His earthly property to mankind, and in so doing ordained the principle of Private Property ownership among people.
- God confirmed this principle within the Eighth and Tenth Commandments, which He wrote upon stone tablets, attesting to the durability of this principle throughout all time.
- Jesus (God manifest in the flesh) confirmed this same Private Property principle within His Own teachings and through the writings of the apostles.
- When money is exchanged for goods/services within the marketplace (i.e. indirect barter exchange) or goods/services are exchanged for other goods/services (i.e. direct barter exchange), a transfer of ownership takes place during the transaction.
- When people are not coerced or forced into making exchange transactions with each other by governments or other people, then freewill and mutually beneficial exchanges can occur—which is the very definition of a true “free market.”
- All society benefits when people’s property rights are respected, and their buying/selling decisions are entirely their own to make. Buyers earn and freely own their money, and can do with it as they please. Sellers own their goods/services, and can do with them as they please. Exchanges will occur when the goals/objectives of both a willing buyer and a willing seller are met to each party’s satisfaction. Again, this is the definition of a truly free market.
Now that we have taken our Organic Economic™ study another level deeper regarding the property rights issue, let us return to some further discussions about the nature of wealth and true monies. Within our next chapter, The Labor Component of Wealth, we will begin a closer examination of the very “substance” of wealth from both biblical and economic points of view.
For more information about Rev. Rich Vermillion, please view the brief bio at the bottom of TheWisdomOfGold.com’s Website Introduction page, or visit his public LinkedIn profile page at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/richvermillion
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