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In the Gates

Honor Debtors

Honor Debtors--Even those who are in our debt are to be respected and honored appropriately.

The fifth commandment

Deuteronomy 24.10-13

When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to collect his pledge. You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge. You shall restore to him the pledge as the sun sets, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you. And it shall be righteousness for you before the LORD your God.”

Even those who are in our debt are to be respected and honored appropriately. If one who was poor had to borrow from one better off, and gave up his cloak as pledge of repayment, that cloak had to be returned to the poor man by nightfall. It would be taken up again the next day. My sense is that the tediousness of having to do this each day would discourage those making the loans from requiring a pledge and, by implication, repayment of the loan.

The man who made a pledge that was to be collected at his home was to be allowed the opportunity of bringing that pledge out. No debtor could transgress his threshold to take what had been promised. Waiting outside for the man to bring out his pledge was a way of saying that the debtor’s word was good.

Keeping such everyday statutes and rules was a way of fulfilling the righteous expectations of God, and, hence, of keeping righteousness alive within the community.

This series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Book Store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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