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June 17, 2014 – Deuteronomy 22

Click here to read Deuteronomy 22 on BibleGateway.com

cowBack in the 60s and 70s in the US, there was a popular philosophy that said basically “as long as you don’t hurt someone, you can do whatever you want.” If you want to put toothpaste on your Oreos, go for it. If you want to ride around town on your bike wearing a mumu, have at it. If you want to have a week-long drug-crazed orgy under the guise of a music festival, knock yourself out.

While somewhat outside the norm back then, this mentality has seeped into our culture at large, and now most Americans would agree with the sentiment without a second thought. As long as you don’t hurt someone, as long as your activities only involve consenting adults, as long as you live and let live, then you’re living a moral life.

NOW FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Christianity stands apart on this. Repeatedly in the Bible, we are told not just to avoid doing wrong, but to do right. For example, many religions of the world have some form of the Golden Rule, but it tends to be in a negative phraseology: don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do you, don’t hurt others because you wouldn’t want to be hurt, etc. Jesus flips this around; he says not only should you not do harm, but you should actively seek to do good.

The Old Testament (you remember, the part of the Bible that has nothing to do with Jesus?) has this same sentiment. In Deuteronomy 22, we read the following commands (including the all-too-common fallen cow scenario):

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. Do the same if you find their donkey or cloak or anything else they have lost. Do not ignore it. If you see your fellow Israelite’s donkey or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help the owner get it to its feet.

BUT I TELL YOU…

Biblically speaking, it’s not enough to just not steal; you should actively help someone who has lost their possessions. Finding a dropped hundred dollar bill on the street isn’t a cause for a dinner out; you should try to find the owner. If the cashier gives you too much change, you should give it back, even though it “their fault.”That’s what makes the Christian life so challenging. It’s not just following a list a rules, it’s a continually striving to behave better, to “be perfect, even as the Father is perfect.” Will we ever get there? Probably not (except for my wife, of course. She’s perfect. And cute.) But the command isn’t “don’t be like Satan.” The command is “be like God.”

That should be enough of a challenge to keep you busy for a while.

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