The Agora
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Ownership of property

QUESTION: Abraham, in spite of purchasing some property, never took ownership of "even a foot's length" (Acts 7:5). How do Christadelphians, who also consider themselves strangers and exiles on the earth, stand on the issue of owning or buying property to live in? What is Scripturally the correct thing to do?

ANSWER: You have already provided a key part of the answer in your question: Like Abraham, we are to identify ourselves so much with the divine kingdom to come (when the faithful shall share the promised land inheritance with Abraham: cf Gal 3:29; Rom 4:13; 8:17; Mat 5:5), that we manifest no aspirations to establish a permanent residency in -- or to have binding connections with -- this world.

Although Abraham was quite wealthy (Gen 13:2), he appears to have deliberately chosen the life of a nomad, which would reflect his desire to avoid the entanglement of urban life. Coming from Ur, Abraham knew that city life could indicate man's attempt at permanency, suggest his independence from God, and lead to idolatry and gross immorality (cf Gen 11:31,4; 10:9-11; Jos 24:2; Gen 13:13; 19:4-9), as Lot discovered in the city of Sodom. It is most revealing that Abram absolutely refused to have any dealings with the king of Sodom (Gen 14:21-24), choosing rather to be associated with the godly high priest Melchizedek, who typified Jesus Christ (Gen 14:18-20; Heb 7:1-7). With this background, we come to the verse you alluded to in your question:

"These all [Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob -- mentioned in vv 8-11] died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth" (Heb 11:13).
This attitude of being a temporary resident in this world -- sometimes called being a pilgrim (cf 1Pe 2:11; Gen 47:9) -- has a direct bearing upon the issue of owning or buying property to live in. The Bible believer understands that all the earth belongs to God (Psa 24:1; 89:11) and that, no matter how much property we may accumulate in human terms, we are only temporary owners living by God's mercy, and on His property. Two helpful texts illustrate this principle:
"The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me" (Lev 25:23).

"But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from thee, and of thy own have we given thee. For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding" (1Ch 29:14,15).
The first reference is the LORD's instruction to Moses regarding Israel's buying and selling property. This alone indicates that land ownership was acceptable to God. The "year of jubilee" ensured that property could not be amassed by a few landlords, but that every 50 years, each Israelite was to return to his family property (Lev 25:8-13). This radical concept made sense only because God was the real owner and they were but "strangers" in His land. The second reference reveals king David's insight at the temple site dedication. While people might think that David was donating his land and the money for the temple, David knew he was really only giving back to God what He already owned. Notice how David recognizes that even he, the king and vast property owner, was still a "sojourner" in the land.

So it is acceptable to God for believers to buy property in order to build homes, as long as they remember who allowed them such a privilege (eg, Deu 8:12,17,18; Jer 29:4-7). They should realize that they are "stewards", or managers, of God's property, which they should use for the sake of His people (eg, Acts 4:36,37; Mat 25:14, 15). The example of the early church is a good illustration of this principle in practice:
"Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common... There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need" (Acts 4:32-35).
Scripture does not discourage land/home ownership. It does encourage willingness to share the benefits of ownership with others, such as by inviting the church to meet in your house (cf Rom 16:5). In today's world, it is often a legal requirement to buy the land in order to build on it. Men and women of faith should not be anxious over the temporal ownership of property for their homes, as long as they are willing to give them up for the sake of the Gospel (if need be), and if in their hearts they are looking forward to living in the city of God (Mark 10:29; Heb 11:14-16).


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