Legal and Biblical Perceptions of Ownership

Legal and Biblical Perceptions of Ownership

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Legal and Biblical Perceptions of Ownership

The need and desire to own property is a requirement that many people value and would go an extra mile to achieve this goal and status. The study compares and contrasts the legal and biblical perceptions on property ownership. Both forms give guidelines that help to avoid misunderstandings when it comes to owning property.

Legal Concepts and Rules of Property Ownership

Various legal provisions exist to guide ownership of properties in the U.S. Ownership in this instance refers to the lawful right to the possession of something. Ownership also entails rights permitting a person to utilize, enjoy, and benefit from particular property (intellectual or physical) and encompasses the right to pass it to others. Ownership also refers to the fact or state of owning something (Alston & Mueller, 2005). Property law in the U.S. is an area in law that regulates the various aspects of ownership in personal and real property, including non-tangible property like intellectual property (Demsetz, 1966). The law defines property as lawfully protected claims to things such as personal property and land (Alston & Mueller, 2005). The permits owners to exchange proper in accordance with contract law, and in case of any violation, one could initiate litigation via tort law to safeguard it. Property law in the U.S. is chiefly under state jurisdiction, but there are federal legislations on copyright and patents and some local laws engagement on aspects such as tenancy (Alston & Mueller, 2005). Statutes have continually played significant roles in facilitating modification on property law that emanate from the common law.

Acquisition of property in the U.S. can be termed as first or adverse possession. The first possessor of a property purchases it and intends to put control over the item and actually exercises substantial influence over it. Pierson v. Post (1805) continues to be influential in deciding cases on first possession. Post being a hunter, was chasing after a fox with the intention of taking it. Pierson noticed the incident and grabbed the opportunity to kill it and claimed ownership (Case Briefs, 2022). The issue before the Supreme Court is whether Post practiced adequate control over the fox, which lives in the wild to enjoy first possession. Most members of the jury referred to guidance they believed would lead them to a proper decision, including the Justinian Code after while it ruled that possession needed particular controls (Case Briefs, 2022). When referring to wild animals, a significant portion of the jury held that only one who capture the animal can get possession, and simply chasing it is not adequate to claim ownership. The dissent, on the other hand, referred to customs and practices among hunting communities. However, controversies marred the interpretation with both the dissent and the majority having varying views. For example, the majority would advocate for a clear decision that is easy for everyone to understand permitting individuals to deal with wrangles while relying on the rule. The dissenting side, on the other, generates concerns of incentives, asserting that the reasonable prospective rule would encourage hunters to increase their rate of killing wild animals (Case Briefs, 2022). On the other hand, someone gains adverse possession for being in continuous possession of a property for so long and this may not require the owner’s assent. However, the possession does not qualify to be adverse if a person takes possession as a tenant of the lawful owner. Often, the legal property owner has the power and right to claim and recover ownership of their ownership from unpermitted occupants through legal intervention such as ejectment. Nevertheless, based on the common law provision, courts have long held that when a person occupies a property without the owner’s position for a significant duration, the law does not only forbid the legal owner from recovering but can also revoke their title deed. In other words, the adverse possessor becomes the lawful owner.

How God’s Law and Intent inform those Legal Concepts of Property

However, looking at the issue of property ownership from the biblical perspective, one is likely to get a different perception from how the legal view present ownership. A suitable way to perceive ownership from a biblical perspective and to know God’s directives and intent is to refer to the mandate of humankind’s dominion over the earth. God in Genesis 1:26-28 orders mankind to take over the earth also called the dominion mandate. Prior to proceeding any further, it is essential to know that there were no other moral duties other than to stay away from consuming the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. The authority God gave to Adam could not be termed as strict dominion, which is conventionally termed as ruling over or subduing. When perceived from its extreme sense, it can entail exploitation and oppression. Specifically, God directs Adam to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. God further directed Adam to have dominion over the sea and fish in it as well as over the birds and over all other living things that crawls or moves across the earth’s surface. In other words, the Bible implies that God created human in his own likeness and image and was given power over the earth. It also means that God gave man power to rule, prevail, dominate, and reign over the earth. Whereas the dominion mandate draw different views, it is apparent that God gives mankind ownership over what is on earth. However, the Bible comes short in the way it describes man’s mandate over non-living creatures, which leaves a gap for further analysis.

Besides relying on mankind’s dominion over earth as instructed by God, refereeing from the Ten Commandments gives valuable insight on how Christians should practice ownership. The fifth commandment, you shall not kill, guides Christians against killing others gain ownership of certain property, especially those that generate controversy. It is possible to find stories both in the Bible and in contemporary societies where people kill others to take over their property. For example, 1 Kings 21 tells the story of Ahab and Jezebel who kill Naboth to take over his property. King Ahab further acts against his powers when he starts to covet Naboth’s vineyard. Ahab approaches Naboth to sell the land to him but the latter turns the offer down arguing that parcel is an ancestral land and would be improper for him to sell it. Ahab washes his hands off the matter but his wife urged him to kill Naboth to have a good chance for occupying the land. The Ten Commandments further warns against coveting because this could lead one to improper pession that could cause disagreements and possible fallout. The Commandments also warn against stealing because this could also result in improper ownership. Hence, it emerges that the Bible is also against ownership forms that are likely to generate controversy as it happens with legal requirements.


An evident similarity between the legal and biblical perspectives of ownership is that both forms advocate for fair ownership of property. Both forms use strict directives to forbid unlawful or improper ownership of property. Both legal and legal provisions do not permit use of force or unclear approaches to claim property rights. Nonetheless, directives on ownership from the legal perspective is more explicit as opposed from the biblical view where believers must deduce the possible meanings to act in accordance with God’s teachings. Another difference is that where there are apparent ramifications for not adhering to the legal provisions of property ownership, the biblical view does not develop an evident outcome for acting contrary even though Christians believe that it is incorrect to defy God’s teachings and his intentions for mankind. Nonetheless, it is imperative for people to acquire property through just means and to ensure that they do not go against any provisions that guide property acquisition and ownership.


The study compares and contrast the legal and biblical perceptions of ownership. The legal aspect requires people to follow the provisions of property law that is comprehensive in its definition of how ownership of property should happen. Legal practitioners follow statutes that guide them on making decisions on ownership-related cases and violators are likely to pay the penalty. On the other hand, the biblical perception of ownership is quite different. Even though it gives clear guidelines on the need to acquire and own property rightfully, it does not give as explicit consequences for violation as it happens with the legal framework. However, both accounts emphasize the need for acting rationally when it comes to owning property, guidelines that are likely to reduce instances of controversies and violations.


Alston, L., & Mueller, B. (2005). Property rights and the state. Available January 24, 2022, from

Case Briefs. (2022). Pierson v. Post. Available January 24, 2022, from

Demsetz, H. (1966). Some aspects of property rights. The Journal of Law and Economics, 9(1), 61-70. doi:10.1086/466619

The Bible. NIV.

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