Read Chapter XVI - Rights of man over things of Usury A Scriptural‚ Ethical and Economic View , free online book, by Calvin Elliott, on

Man was the last and the crowning work of the Creator. God made man in his own image and gave him dominion over all creatures.

“For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.

“Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

“All the sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

“The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.”

This high position is in entire harmony with man’s innate consciousness of his superior powers, and of his nobler spiritual nature, and of his rightful dominion over all the other material creations. Man is a person, a thinking intelligent being, and is conscious of his personality, and from his lofty height he calls all else the lower and the inferior creatures. Wherever man is found over the whole earth, of whatever faith or grade of civilization, he claims this universal dominion.

Man was commanded to subdue the earth and bring it into subjection as his servant and he is conscious of his right to use all things to promote his comfort, convenience and welfare. Anything he can make of service to himself he has a right to appropriate.

A tree is a thing which he may prepare for his own purposes, for fuel, for tools, or for a dwelling, as he pleases.

Isaiah ridiculed the idolater in his time, who made an idol of wood and worshiped it, while with another part of the same tree he built a fire and warmed himself. A part he served and a part served him. The whole tree was subject to him; in itself it had no rights.

Rights belong to persons, and not to things, and personality cannot be transferred to a thing. If there is no personal owner the question of rights is never raised. The tree, or any thing whatever, has no rights in the matter. Rights belong to the owner, the person, not to the thing he owns.

The game in the mountain forests and the fish in the rivers are things with no owner and whosoever will may take and use them.

Land is a thing, and any person may make it into a farm or garden and build upon it his home. The land has no rights and makes no protest. The whole earth is subject to man and is to be subdued by him. If no owner appears his rights are not disputed. Our fathers found an unowned continent, with all its rich resources of soil and forests and mines. It was to them free, and with the labor of a few generations they transformed it into farms and plantations and built it over with magnificent cities.

Even that which formerly was the property of another has no rights. The deserted hunter’s hut in the mountains can be appropriated. The abandoned farm does not resist a new tenant. A derelict vessel, still afloat but driven before the winds, whose officers, crew and owners are at the bottom of the sea, can be appropriated, for there is no one to dispute the claim.

Even force or labor in the abstract is but a thing and has no rights. The wind is unowned and any one who will may harness it to do his work. The electric forces of nature are unowned, whoever will may gather and direct them to do his purpose. The waterfall may be made to do man’s work and will not resist. The animals have no rights against man. The broncho, horse, ox, mule, or animal of any kind, may be turned to man’s service. All the forces of nature were made for man. They have no rights to be regarded, when his interests can be served.

It is man’s high privilege to stand above all things, to call them to his feet and to compel their service. It is the reversion of the order for him to take the subordinate place and serve the inferior creation. Things subdued, such as wealth secured, is to minister to his highest good and to promote his noblest manhood. The order is reversed when this wealth commands his service and sacrifice. The miser both reverses the divine order and violates common sense by giving the love and service of his shriveling soul to a thing.

The usurer and the borrower on usury, both, reverse the true order by assuming that a thing can claim man’s service. Both grant that a thing has rights to be respected. The usurer takes the service as due to the thing he owns. It is his property that is exalted, and for which he claims the service must be rendered, and if the borrower will think closely, he will find that in paying usury he is serving a thing.

A man reverses the divine order and degrades himself, and becomes a gross idolater, when he serves things unowned instead of commanding their service, “stocks and stones.” He reverses the true order when he becomes a miser and serves that which is his own, “which his own fingers have made,” instead of compelling it to serve him. He is not less degraded when he exalts over himself a thing owned by another and serves it. The ownership of another does not change the nature of the thing. One can serve his neighbor’s idol as truly as he can his own.

There is nothing above man but God. His fellow man is by his side, his equal, and all other material creations are beneath his feet, and he is not to permit his fellow man to lift up the inferior thing and place it above him. If he does he must step down from the pinnacle on which he was placed by his God and which his own consciousness demands he shall occupy.

“Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.” Isaiah 10:15.

If he serves the borrowed ax and saw for the claim that the ax and saw have against him, he admits his debt to things and Isaiah’s ridicule of an idolater can be turned against him and he steps down from the position of conscious inborn dignified lordship and becomes a servant of the inferior things.