October 8, 2021
1 “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
2 “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.
“Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft. 4 If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double.
5 “If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard.
6 “If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
This is one of those laws we see lived out later in the life of the nation. It might even jump at you as you read the text today. If you have stolen from another, you must pay back in some form of a multiple. 2 times, 4 times, even 5 times what was taken. And it reminds me of the story of Zacchaeus in the gospel. He says that if he has cheated anyone he will pay back 4 times what he took.
Yesterday we saw laws that provided people with respect and protection of life. Today we see laws that protect the livelihood of others. How do we protect others so that they can live productive lives?
On that punitive side of it, people have the motivation of knowing that if they take something from someone else they will have to pay back 4 to 5 times what they took. It makes sense to just stay with what you have and not risk having to lose more than you could have gained.
But it really takes us back to a simpler understanding. We should be satisfied with what we have. We don’t have to get into the constant grabbing for more things. We don’t need to have what the neighbours have. We can live with what we already have.
Which takes me back to Zacchaeus. He recognized what he had done wrong, he had taken from others. Taken what they needed for life so that he could have extra in life. We might wonder how much Zacchaeus had after his paid restitution and giving half of what he had to the poor. But it is also about seeing that he becomes satisfied with the grace of God in life, not about the things he can take hold of. So as Jesus speaks those words of salvation, that salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus, it is because Zacchaeus is now living in grace instead of in his own selfish desires for more. God’s grace is what we need.
Song – Draw Me Close
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season, and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, in the provisions for our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.