From God’s Word, we know:
God created the world (property) and all that is in it and gave it to man to use for man’s best interest and God’s glory.
God instructed Adam to be “fruitful, multiply, replenish, have dominion”.
Man’s disobeyed God by eating from the tree of life. Sin permeates and corrupts the world.
Because of sin, Cain steals Abel’s life. God judge’s Cain for taking something that does not belong to him.
The son’s of God “take” the daughters of man in disobedience to God. God judge’s the world.
God reiterates to Noah, be “fruitful, multiply, replenish, have dominion”. Noah and his family obey and spread throughout the world. Nimrod disobeys and is judged. Noah’s sons: Heth, Seth and Japeth all go throughout the world establishing civilizations.
God instructs Noah that “by man shall a man’s life be taken”. Taking the highest form of property, human life, is judged to be wrong and the consequence is a forfeiture of life. Sin had corrupted the world to the point where God destroys all human life except for Noah and his family. The sinfulness of man requires the righteous use of violence (taking another’s life in a judicial act) to preserve order within society.
The length of life at this point in man’s history is long enough that the children of Noah are still living at the time of Abraham. While not definitive, it is reasonable to conclude that Noah’s life is well known to Abraham.
Abraham is given a promise of “land, seed and blessing”. Abraham believes God and it is counted to him “as righteousness”. Although God has promised the land to Abraham, Abraham is not presumptuous in his ownership. Approaching the children of Heth, who was one of Noah’s sons and possibly still alive at the time, Abraham desires to purchase land to bury Sarah. The sons of Heth have a developed culture that allows for the orderly conduct of voluntary exchange.
God desires man to be productive. Man has been given intelligence to determine how to be productive, property is the means to be productive and labor is the agency that makes man productive. Using intelligence, property and labor man produces the material things necessary to meet the his own needs and the needs of others.
The children of Heth, like mankind today, is somewhat stuck between two absolutes. First, the command to be “fruitful, multiply, replenish and subdue” and second, the pervasiveness and corrupting nature of sin.
In order to be productive, man must have some certainty that he can be productive, otherwise, his efforts are futile and he becomes frustrated. The biggest enemy to productivity is violence. It is through violence that one man takes what does not belong to him from another, or, prohibits another from using property for productive purposes.
Violence (Cain murders Abel) and deception (Satan deceived Adam and Eve) are the consequences of sin. The children of Heth, using their intelligence developed a system to allow for the orderly transfer of real estate, established a public record of the ownership and the righteous use of force to protect the system. The system prevents the taking of property by violence or deception.
Private property ownership is the foundation of economic activity. Using private property, the entrepreneur risks what he has to produce a good or service the consumer wants, at a price that will cover the cost of production.
Imagine if at any time, an individual or group of individuals could take what the entrepreneur is producing or had produced away and claim it was theirs. Such lawlessness would stop economic activity.
Expand this example to the production of something complicated, like an automobile or a computer. Each good has thousands of individual products in it and each one of those products takes thousands of steps to produce. What would happen to productivity if thieves took various components from each of the individual processes?