Deuteronomy 22:1 (CSB)
1 “If you see your brother Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it; make sure you return it to your brother.
This is a wonderful passage! On the one hand, it draws a the inner sense of morality and comradery out of us. On the other, it is a commentary on our sinful nature, and our tendencies. Let’s list some points:
- The fact that God has to command his people to do things like return another’s lost livestock, or help them lift a fallen donkey or ox, is unsettling. These are behaviors (helping, honesty, etc.) that we try to teach our children, that we crave in our movie heroes and heroines, that we revere. Yet God has to command us to follow through with the same behavior?
- The command helps us to shift our focus off of ourselves and on to others. Our true focus should always be on God, and anytime we get it off ourselves we are closer to having him in our sight. Jesus says, in Matthew 22:37-40, that after loving God with all we have, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
- Complacency is not okay. The entire passage does not focus on stealing your brother’s stuff, it repeatedly says not to ignore stuff. When we see a wrong, we should work to right it. When our brother or sister is in need of help, which is what is being described here, we should step up to help.
- We are not expected to cause detriment to ourselves when helping our brother or sister, but we are called to put some effort into the situation. In Deut. 22:2 we see that we are not called to make unreasonable sacrifices, like travelling long distances to return livestock. But we are called to hold and, presumably, care for it until the owner can claim it, or, like in Deut. 22:4, stop and help our brother or sister lift their fallen donkey or ox… my guess is that lifting a donkey isn’t too bad, but lifting an ox sounds like a pretty good amount of effort!
Lord, thank you for never ignoring us in our times of need! I am sorry for the times when I turned my back on a brother or sister in need of a helping hand, for turning my back on you. I pray for your church to live lives of true brotherhood, where we come together and support one another, a sign of you in this self-centered world. Amen.