God's Laws on Land and Inheritance--Part 3
Apr 24, 2008
It has been said that the power to tax is the power to destroy. In other words, when someone does not pay the tax that has been imposed, the government then seizes the property or removes the privilege that it has taxed.
God's system of the tithe is the tax system of the Kingdom of God, designed to support Kingdom government on the earth. Because of the just nature of the rest of the laws, and because God's laws encourage righteousness and discourage sin ("crime") in an equitable manner, God's system of justice and government is simple and relatively inexpensive. By contrast, Babylon's system promotes bondage and tends to make bitter those that commit crimes against its laws, and this encourages sinners to work against the government or to find ways to bypass its regulations. This, along with the tendency to legislate unjust laws, actually causes more crime in the long run. This makes Babylonian government increasingly expensive, requiring higher and higher taxes to fund its oppression.
God's Kingdom gives all of its citizens a land inheritance that cannot be taken away. This means that the land is non-taxable in the Kingdom of God on earth. Land ownership is not merely a government privilege, but an actual right. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, commenting on the Declaration of Independence over a century ago, a right is that which God gives, while a privilege is something government grants to men. A right cannot be taxed, they said, but government may tax privileges, because it may charge a fee for what it grants.
A God-given right is said to be a right because government cannot take it away, tax it, or pass legislation that would contradict the divine laws on which those rights are based. Only God may remove a right, because God granted it in the first place. In other words, a right is actually a privilege insofar as our relationship with God is concerned. For example, God gave Israel a land inheritance in Canaan, but when the people rebelled against God's laws which laid down the conditions under which they were allowed to inherit God's creation, He expelled them. God had every right to do this, because inheritance was based upon divine privilege with conditions.
Land ownership in America has never been a true right, in spite of its Christian heritage. Very early, they felt that property should be taxed to support a public educational system. In doing so, they deviated from the laws of the Kingdom of God. While one can understand their desire for an educated populace, their policy has not been without side effects that are quite apparent today. But, of course, the very fact that Americans were allowed to buy and sell land seemed like "freedom" in the early days, but like all deviations from Kingdom law, it has degenerated into the land speculation and mortgage crisis that we see today.
Any time man thinks that he has a better idea than God can come up with, his pride will eventually get him into trouble. Biblical law is not antiquated, except, of course, where the Bible itself has made alterations in view of the New Covenant. But those alterations were pre-planned and did not represent an admission of divine failure or a change of mind on God's part.
All of God's laws are related and no isolated law can be implemented properly without the others to support it. One cannot take a single biblical law and apply it like a band aid to the Babylonian system. Biblical law must be taken as a whole, rather than to be used to glean good ideas here and there. And so, the Bible's requirement of land inheritance for its citizens cannot be implemented without considering their land to be tax-free. It must be their inheritance from God--not from government. It must therefore be held as a God-given right--not as a government privilege. And the laws of redemption and Jubilee must be followed, so that those who are forced to "sell" their land in payment of debt never lose their right of redemption, nor do they lose their inheritance.
Essentially, when a man sold his inheritance, he was not allowed to sell the land itself (Lev. 25:23), but he could sell its productive capacity. If there were twelve harvests between his sale and the year of Jubilee, the land was valued according to its average productive ability for those twelve harvest years. Likewise, each year that passes, the "value" of the land decreases proportionately, making it easier for a man to redeem his property before the year of Jubilee. Of such cases, Lev. 25:50 says,
"(50) He then with his purchaser shall calculate from the year when he sold himself to him up to the year of Jubilee, and the price of his sale shall correspond to the number of years. . . . (51) If there are still many years, he shall refund part of his purchase price in proportion to them for his own redemption."
This law served to put land out of reach to the speculators, because essentially it removed all monetary value from the property per se. Land was given freely by God as man's inheritance and was not to be seen as a speculative instrument in one's portfolio.
Since man is made of the dust of the ground, and this is a land law, we see that the sale of land is based upon the same principle as the sale of a human being. It is not the human being who is actually being sold when a man sells himself as a slave for debt. The man cannot sell himself, because he did not create himself, and therefore he does not really own himself. All he can do is sell his labor until the year of Jubilee, at which time he is released, along with his land inheritance.
This is why biblical slavery is not the same as the slavery practiced by men since Nimrod first conquered men and built the original city of Babel, or Babylon. Nimrod usurped the place of God by laying claim to the souls of men. But God's system of slavery is based upon the idea that God owns what He has created, and He retains the full rights of ownership. He gives inheritances and allows men to "own" land, but man's ownership is a privilege under God and is fully subject to divine law.
The price of land was also "fixed" by its productive value, calculated by the land's ability to produce barley. Lev. 27:16 gives the fixed price as "a homer of barley seed at fifty shekels of silver." A homer, or chomer, is about eight bushels. A shekel of silver is slightly more than a quarter of an ounce, so fifty shekels would be about twelve ounces of silver. With all of the price fluctuations and farming technology of modern times, it is hard to know if these valuations of barley and silver would be applicable under current conditions. The principle, however, shows us that God removes the incentive for speculation by fixing the price of barley to silver.
President Nixon tried to impose a wage-and-price freeze in the early 1970's to control "inflation," but without success. It cannot be done in a Babylonian economic system, because the debt-usury system of Babylonian banking demands an excessive increase in the creation of money just to finance the debt. This tends to dilute the value of money, making costs, prices, and wages rise steadily. In a way, Nixon was attempting to apply a principle of biblical law as a band aid to the Babylonian system, and he discovered that it was not possible.
The Bible does make a distinction between rural and urban property, however. Urban property may be bought and sold, though the previous owner always has a right to redeem it within a year of the sale (Lev. 25:29). This year-long right of redemption served to dampen the enthusiasm of urban land speculators and encourage its proper value and use.
This is the third part of a series titled "God's Laws on Land and Inheritance." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones