lift them up again

Today's devotion from Deuteronomy 21 & 22.

In this section God says that ignoring the issue is not an option for the obedient Israelite. If your brother's livestock has gone astray, you can't ignore it.  Yet, it goes beyond livestock. While speaking of livestock, one the most valuable assets in the community, we also read, "Do the same for his donkey, his garment, or anything your brother has lost and you have found. You must not ignore it." (Deuteronomy 22:3, CSB) This flies in the face of what so many of us claim as the rule of, "finders keepers."

What is the point of this? Is this really just about not keeping that quarter you find on the pavement?  I think it reveals to us the heart of God regarding an important concept: restoration. The point is to restore to rightful place and position. In community, I am responsible for the welfare of my neighbor and his belongings.

The difference between preservation and restoration is that I'm not acting to save the animal because of my fondness of animals. I'm acting because of my affection for my neighbor. This is an important distinction because the attachment is not to the animal or garment, but to my fellow community member. As Christians, we could be tempted to act out of obligation to preserve instead of a call to restore. Why is this important? Because if we see something as belonging to someone else, restoration becomes easier.

For example, when you go through the grocery line, and the distracted cashier bags an item that you know wasn't scanned and paid for, what do you do? If you're motivated by the value of the thing, you might keep it. After all, they made the mistake. And besides, that grocery chain has more than enough money.

However, if you realize that a portion of the profit off that item was going to go into the pocket of the single mom working the cash register, you might make a different decision. Its easy to steal from an institution, but hard to take money from the purse of someone looking you in the eye. This is the realization that when we are in community with others, and we help them lift their animal out of the ditch, we're not just lifting up the animal. We are restoring the blessing and provision of God to where it rightly belongs.