“No inheritance-land may be passed from tribe to tribe; each tribe of the People of Israel must hold tight to its own land.” Numbers 36:9 (MSG)
Land is a funny thing. We like to think we own it, and in doing so we attach all sorts of value to it and allow it to have a strange sense of power over us. The land I own here at home was first owned by the founder of the town, H.P. Scholte. All of the Dutch settlers gave Scholte their life savings and he pooled the money to buy all of the land around here, then parceled it out once the U.S. Government gave him the deeds. The problem was that it took a while for the Government to process the paperwork (some things never change, I guess). The delay created all sorts of conflict and scandal in the fledgling community. People became obsessed with claiming and owning their land. I can still see some of those obsessive attitudes in the descendents who inherited it.
The land that I “own” in Missouri was first developed in a time of blatant racism. The paperwork to my land includes handwritten instructions by the racist landowners that the land may never be owned by anyone other than a pure blooded caucasian. How very sad.
I’ve been reading through The Lord of the Rings again. I lost count how many times I’ve read the epic tale. In The Two Towers, two Hobbits are sunning themselves on the peak of a tall hill and they run into an ancient Ent – a giant tree-like creature who shepherds the trees. He asks the Hobbits what they call the thing they are standing on:
“Hill?” suggested Pippin. “Shelf? Step?” suggested Merry.
Treebeard repeated the words thoughtfully. “Hill. Yes, that was it. But it is a hasty word for a thing that has stood here ever since this part of the world was shaped.”
Indeed. Today I am reminded that I may own land, but if I’m not careful it can end up owning me. The truth of the matter is that in the end we all die and, as God’s Message reminds us, return to the ground from which we were made. I may hold claim to a piece of land for a short time, but the land will ultimately claim me.