How Do You Know?

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which asks, “How do you know?”. It’s a bit more involved than the child asking the same question, but sometimes has way too many similarities. Still, many grudges held by people who once were friends could be resolved if this question were asked. How do you know your grudge is about something that actually happened? How do you know?

We hold grudges against our Master. We do. It sounds totally bizarre, but we sometimes have to forgive our Savior. Not for Him, or something He’s done wrong. We need to let something go we’ve been holding against Him. We more often, do the same thing with people, and it’s much easier to see there. These next two laws are about that:

“If a man gives his neighbor money or goods to keep for him and it is stolen from the man’s house, if the thief is caught, he shall pay double. If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges, to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property. For every breach of trust, whether it is for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.

Exodus 22:7-9 NASB

“Here, hold this for me.” We’ve all heard it, and/or said it. Has anyone had to watch your dogs? How about “house sitting” (such American things)? But in a day when locks were neither common, nor much use, who keeps the thief from your goods you don’t carry with you when you travel? Regardless of the circumstances, there’s a risk in putting your goods in the hands of another, even someone you trust.

Let’s say you do. You give your most prized possession, some thing, to your most trusted friend (not necessarily your best friend, but the responsible one – the boring one). You go away. You return. The item is missing, their house has been “burgled”. Or has it? If the thief is caught, the laws of thieving apply. But if not, if the thief makes his escape, then what?

Verse 8 says, in the New American Standard translation, that the owner of the house must appear before the “judges”. There is a footnote stating that the literal translation would be “God”. There are arguments on both sides of translating that, but, in the end, it literally says, God. Either way, imagine it, your trusted friend with the burgled house only has to appear before God (or His representative) and declare his innocence. There is an “examination” of some sort, but there aren’t details here.

So, if God decides that your buddy didn’t do it, your stuff is gone, and you don’t have any further recourse. Are you okay with that? Can you let it go? Will you and your “trusted friend” be okay? It gets back to the basic concept of “people-over-stuff” we saw with thieves.

Here’s the second rule where resentment may be an issue:

“If a man gives his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep for him, and it dies or is hurt or is driven away while no one is looking, an oath before the Lord shall be made by the two of them that he has not laid hands on his neighbor’s property; and its owner shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution. But if it is actually stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. If it is all torn to pieces, let him bring it as evidence; he shall not make restitution for what has been torn to pieces.

Exodus 22:10-13 NASB

Here, donkeys and oxen are in view instead of silver or stuff, but the idea remains the same. They come before Yahweh (which is why I think the other law refers to God), and if the “protector” takes an oath, then the owner shall accept it. It sounds odd, but here again, God puts people over stuff. The relationship between neighbors, friends, or even family is greater than stuff, even stuff used in your livelihood. This law requires forgiveness, willing forgiveness.

The application is really about priorities; placing relationships as more important than stuff. That’s the point I believe Yahweh was making with His people, and the message we need to take away from it. There isn’t any thing that is more important than the relationships we have with those around us. Don’t let things divide us, not pets, not the ball game, not anything.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation