The eighth commandment
God’s people are to be actively concerned to preserve the property and wellbeing of their neighbors, and to ensure that each receives what he is due.
“And you shall speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter. And if he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. And if he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. And if his father has not brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the nearest kinsman of his clan, and he shall possess it. And it shall be for the people of Israel a statute and a rule, as the LORD commanded Moses.’”
Ancient Israelites knew nothing of the kind of inheritance taxes which have become typical in our society, and which are, in a very real sense, a form of government stealing from heirs. The logic behind such laws is fallacious, at best: the heirs did not own the property they now possess; thus, they have not paid taxes on it before, and must now.
No such right to steal the property of individuals or their heirs was a part of Israelite society or the Law of God, and all such forms of unjust taxation should be resisted. In ancient Israel great care was to be taken in order to ensure that a man’s property would pass decently and in order to his heirs, so that they could continue the family’s stewardship over what God had entrusted to them. Government’s only responsibility in this was to ensure that property was rightly and fully transmitted to the proper heirs.
This series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to www.ailbe.org and click on our Book Store.