The Church and God’s Law (13)

If a man opens a pit, or digs a pit and does not cover it over, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall become his (Ex.21:33-34).

Man has responsibility in God’s purpose. The Christian’s duty is to subdue the world God has given him. Being made “alive with Christ” (Eph.2:5) has re-equipped the believer with the capacity for godly meditation, diligence and action, in accordance with God’s word (Josh. 1:8), whether it be in warfare, charity, the family, politics, foreign affairs, economics, education and lawmaking.

The original commands of God to Adam have passed to him, so he is expected to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen.1:28). Human responsibility is reiterated in Psalm 8:6: “You made him ruler over the works of your hands: you put all things under his feet.” Hence, Jesus Christ requires the believer to take ambassadorial responsibility before God, to “…do business with this until I come back” (Luke 19:13).

What has this to do with digging pits that animals may fall into? Everything. We have to be able to deal with the basic issues of life with competence, as well as the lofty.

An open pit is a test of responsibility. If we opened it, will we take care to ensure an animal or person will not fall into it? If we have not, and someone’s ox or donkey should fall into it, we must “make restitution.” The value of the lost animal must be paid to the owner, while the dead animal becomes the property of the negligent one. If the lost animal’s carcase still has value, the one responsible to pay restitution could certainly take steps to retrieve and butcher it, if it’s been found before it began to deteriorate. He’s paid for it: it’s his.

What if the two parties cannot agree on the value of the lost animal? They should bring in an independent person to arbitrate.

In this situation, the monetary loser is he who was negligent to begin with. He has now paid for his mistake which led to the loss of the animal, while the original owner has been compensated for his loss. So far as can be achieved in this circumstance, “we’re all square.”

The best outcome to an unfortunate accident has been achieved.

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