Sunday, March 20, 2011

Convo with Pastor - Deuteronomy 24:6

It is wrong to take a set of millstones,
or even just the upper millstone,
as security for a loan,
for the owner uses it to make a living.
Deuteronomy 24:6
After several long books of laws and regulations, it's a good time to remind you that there were two sets of laws.
  • One has to do with our relationship with God. The other has to do with self and others.
  • The ones pointing to God are a holiness code. The ones pointing to self and others have to do with health and cleanliness, wisdom and good order in society.
In general, the ones concerning holiness and our relationship with God are timeless. The ones pointing to self and others are often viewed as specific to time and era of the ancient Jews.
Unfortunately, the cultural logic of some of these commands leads to some to reject the set of laws altogether (including some of the holiness ones). Our natural tendency is to cut and paste and demand less and less of ourselves.
Let me give you a cultural example ... and what I believe to be a faithful response: What if you wanted to borrow from me -- whether I'm an individual or big city banker.
  • A very legalistic interpretation of the law says that I can hold as collateral anything from you except your millstones.
  • A very permissive interpretation says, "You see, all of these are hopelessly out of date. And if we're not enforcing millstones, then why shouldn't we just forget all of the commands?"
  • A more reasoned and faithful response -- in my opinion -- says, "Why did God give this law?" "To protect people. Therefore, right living in the kingdom demands that we don't prevent people from working hard and that we allow them to dig themselves out of their debts rather than take advantage of them. Therefore, if you're the lender, make this a win-win. It's okay for you to collect interest, as the lender needs to make a living too! But don't crush the debtor."
Does that make sense?
Here's my recommendation:
  1. Keep all the laws regarding holiness and a right relationship with God. (We printed one in our devotions two days ago: "18:9 When you enter the land .. be very careful not to immitate the detestable customs of the people living there." Holiness!)
  2. Look deeper into all the other commands -- person to person, health and cleanliness, wisdom and good order -- keeping absolutely as many as you possibly can.
  3. If you're tempted to bend a law, still make it cost you something.
  4. But don't legalistically add burdens to others -- i.e. be more demanding of yourself than your neighbor.
  5. And strive always to love God and love neighbor.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who really wants to know
how to be holy and life-giving
rather than legalistic and burden-bearing
Does that happen too often in our culture? A person's means of repaying a loan are taken from them before they can fulfill their end of the deal? It almost seems like a trap. Maybe this is God's way of saying, don't set a trap. Don't set someone up to fail.

I don't understand how a person can follow all the commands without being legalistic about it. The more laws and details to follow, the more legalistic a situation becomes. It is a vicious cycle that can lead a person down the wrong path. Quickly. And is very hard to escape.

It is safest - for me at least - to work on loving God and my neighbor.  the rest will come.

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