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In the Gates

Guard against Negligence

Guard against Negligence--Negligence can result in a form of stealing.

The eighth commandment

Love for neighbor requires active concern for their property and full restoration of any loss we may cause.

Exodus 22.6

If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution.”

James 3.5, 6

Exodus 22.5

If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard.”

Negligence can result in a form of stealing. Fires that get out of control or beasts that graze the crops of others take from our neighbors that which God has entrusted to them as surely as if we seized their possessions ourselves. When loss was incurred because of negligence, full restitution was required. Thus the balance of justice would be maintained in the community.

These statutes caution us to think about our neighbors, and not merely ourselves, in whatever we undertake, lest, by our negligence, we bring harm to them or their property. Neighbor love begins in thoughtful consideration of our neighbor’s interests and concerns. If all we can think about, in any undertaking, is how we might benefit from our actions, the danger to others or their property might not be clear. To avoid being guilty of stealing, even when that was not our intent, we must take precautions in all we do to make sure that our actions do not injure our neighbor.

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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