Monday, April 20, 2015

Repurpose your private property

Human beings want to possess things. When we are little, our parents and teachers endlessly tell us to share: “Now let Bobby have a turn.”

There’s something fundamental about ownership. The Church’s social doctrine affirms that “Private property is an essential element” of public order.[1] However, the problem isn’t that we shouldn’t possess. The problem is that we possess for a purpose.

“Goods are meant for everyone.”[2] The problem with our desire to possess isn’t actually possessing, but why we possess. When we overemphasize the right to private property so much that it blinds us from seeing that what we are given is for us to steward for all people, then it is time to start really considering whether what we have is truly, ‘rightfully ours.’

Many of us have far more than we need. We may respond, “But I need to provide for my family.” Yes. You do! And that’s the first step. What you possess is for another, not just for you. And when your family has enough clothing and food and vacation and living space, then what is your private property for?

Christ calls each of us to a life of perfection—a life where we are so concerned about others that our possessions get ‘re-purposed”. What I own is no longer just for my own wants or needs, but for the needs and wants of my family, my friends, and those who need what I have.

Yes, human beings long to possess. We desire to have, and, indeed, we were created to own and distribute. So many are in real need of more material things, and we neglect what we learned as kids: to share. Maybe it really is another’s turn.

Give intentional purpose to your private property. Give away the clothing you don’t wear, and add another 3 months of clothing money, too. Volunteer to pick up and drop off your child’s friend so his less-fortunate parents don’t have to spend that gas money. Offer some of your vacation savings to financially assist the recovery of a cancer-patient, or set up a saving account to help with your niece’s college tuition later in life. Give your property a richer purpose, by purposing it for others.

[1] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2004. No. 176.
[2] Compedium. No. 177