How do you know when your stuff has begun to define you, rather you defining your stuff? Perhaps you are one of those who prefer to be defined by your stuff. If so, you may not like what you read here. The One creating this universe, managing it, and bringing it to a climactic end, wants our attention. Sometimes “stuff” and our things can distract us. So, our Master set boundaries for us with regard to our stuff and our relationships with others. We’ve looked at two sets, and here’s a third “standalone”.
“If a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it is injured or dies while its owner is not with it, he shall make full restitution. If its owner is with it, he shall not make restitution; if it is hired, it came for its hire.Exodus 22:14,15 NASB
Borrowing is a tricky thing. Have you met, or been, one of those people who hate to lend things to others? It’s kind of sad, and this is as one of those who doesn’t like lending. I tend to forget about it, and then, when I want to use the “thing”, can’t remember who I lent it to. Sometimes I’m okay with it, sometimes not so much. It depends on the thing. So, I hesitate to lend. I try to be generous though, because I know I should be.
This law has two surprising parts though. The first surprise is the exception if the lender is with the borrower when the item is injured or dies (or is destroyed). The idea I see here is that the borrow is using the animal or item, but, because the lender is present (merely as an observer?), no restitution need be made. I suppose the lender can, at that time, determine whether the borrower was at fault for how he used the animal/thing. But if the lender isn’t present, does it matter? Does the means by which the item was destroyed make a difference in a borrowing/lending sense? It’s weird when you think about it. The lender can still protect his property if he’s there, is my thought, but I also know how often that isn’t true. Still weird.
But what about the third phrase? What about “borrowing for hire”? Is it borrowing or hiring? This law encompasses both. And if it’s hired, that it. No restitution is made for “hired” things. Ouch. Could Yahweh be encouraging lending/borrowing instead of hiring. Maybe this helps protect the poor without requiring that that no “hiring” happen. Most often, nothing will happen, whether lent or hired out. If a poorer farmer needs the help of another ox, it’s more likely he’ll get the ox lent to him rather than rented to him.
There are a lot of unknowns about the cultural setting of such a law, but, along with the others we’ve seen so far, it seems possible that God is, once again, protecting those with less ability to protect themselves. Maybe we should have the same point of view. Perhaps loving our neighbor truly does fulfill the law.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation