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Click here to read Deuteronomy 22 on BibleGateway.com

Deuteronomy 22:2: If you see your fellow Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to its owner. If they do not live near you or if you do not know who owns it, take it home with you and keep it until they come looking for it. Then give it back.

signAnd now, my children, hearken unto my words, and we shall delve into that most classic of all stand-up comedian routines – the warning label. It may be cliché, but irresistible nonetheless. So, for your perusal:

– A hairdryer states “do not use while sleeping.”
– Many irons come with a warning “do not iron clothes while wearing them.”
– Synthetic logs carry a warning that they are flammable.
– Chainsaws are required to carry a warning to “not hold the wrong end of a chain saw.” If your chain saw is making weird noises, this is how to fix it

Now, the usual rationalization given for these warning labels is twofold: one, we live in such a litigious society that if a product does not clearly label all its potential dangers, someone is going to sue them the first time they try to iron the pants they’re wearing; and two, people are idiots.


Lest you think idiocy started with the modern era, the Bible gives some indications that people have been either unbelievably dumb or somewhat more believably sneaky for a few thousand years. In ancient Israel, along with all the fun dietary laws, there were laws regarding found property. If you found something lying on the road that belonged to a neighbor, you were required to give it back to them (note: you couldn’t even just ignore it; you were required to get involved). Moreover, if the item belonged to someone who lived far away (or if you didn’t know who owned it), you were required to keep it safe at your house until they came looking for it.

Then the Bible throws in the little extra: “then give it back.” So, try to keep this straight: if you take something that belongs to someone else, and they come to get it, you have to give it back. Wondering why the Bible has to be so specific? Option one: people are idiots and need to be told every step of the process. Or, option two: people know that God says “do not steal,” however, what if you just “find” something that belongs to someone else? Surely you can keep that, right? Generally speaking, if there is a loophole to be found in the rules, somehow we will find it.


The truth is that willful ignorance never has been and never will be an excuse to do the wrong thing. You can’t close your eyes as you go past the speed limit sign and then tell the kindly police officer you didn’t know what the limit was. The law is the law, even if you try to avoid knowing it. The Bible tells us that God’s laws are written on our hearts.  In other words, deep down, we know we shouldn’t murder, even if we never read a word of scripture.   Sometimes people get the idea that if they just don’t read all of the Bible, that somehow God will give them a pass into heaven, since “we didn’t know.”  Unfortunately, the Bible itself seems to rule that out.  Sorry.

Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question.  Instead of trying to avoid knowing the Law as much as we can, perhaps we should be pursing the Lawgiver as closely as we can, then following the Law might just follow naturally.  If we are trying to Love God and Neighbor, then we wouldn’t need a rule on giving back someone’s wallet – we would already be doing that, driven by love rather than law.

Which is the whole point of the law after all.

2 Responses to “Caution: Fire May Be Hot”

  1. Davida Hardon Says:

    Pretty revealing….look frontward to visiting again.|

  2. Rutha Kocon Says:

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