America is in a fight over CIVIL BEHAVIOR. As 2012 opened, we are being challenged on many fronts to decide what is truly civil responsibility and what is individual responsibility. We have chosen in America to publically educate our children, but in spite of the hard work of many believing teachers and administrators – it has become an open season to draw our children into one battle over ever-changing morality after another.
- Origins: We have long left behind the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee – for the Bible is now assumed to hold no real accurate information about our origins and evolution is called a theory but given the hallowed position of fact.
- Sexual Purity: In many school districts, we have essentially left behind teaching sexual abstinence as an absolute cure for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (in spite of the fact that when practiced it has a 100% effectiveness).
- Parental Authority: We have left behind the inviolable right of parental respect – citing a child’s right over their own body to receive contraception advice and devices, even to the exclusion of parental notification in most places in our country.
- Sanctity of Life: We have educated an entire generation through the contradiction of our laws that state a person causing the death of an unborn child outside of a clinic by wounding the mother is murder, but inside a women’s clinic is simple health care.
- Contracts: We have seen countless cases that upheld education as an absolute right of every child, whether they choose to work at their academics or not. In a number of notable cases in labor disputes, educational institutions have been forbidden to remove tenured teachers in spite of egregious violations and horrible records.
Dr. Stephen Anderson teaches philosophy at A.B. Lucas Secondary School in Ontario, Canada. His students … were about to start one on ethics. To jump start the discussion and to “form a baseline from which they could begin to ask questions about the legitimacy of moral judgments of all kinds,” Anderson shared with them a gruesome photo of Bibi Aisha, a teenage wife of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan. When Bibi tried to get away from her abusive husband, her family caught her, cut off her nose and ears, and left her to die in the mountains. Only Bibi didn’t die. Somehow she crawled to her grandfather’s house, and was saved in an American hospital. Writing in Education Journal magazine, Anderson relates how he was sure that his students, “seeing the suffering of this poor girl of their own age, [they] would have a clear ethical reaction,” one they could talk about “more difficult cases.” But their response shocked Anderson. “[He] expected strong aversion [to it], … but that’s not what I got. Instead, they became confused . . . afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize,” as he said, “any situation originating in a different culture. They said, ‘Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.’” Anderson calls their confusion and refusal to judge such child mutilation a moment of startling clarity, and indeed it is. He wonders if it stems not from too little education, but from too much multiculturalism and so-called “values education,” which is really just an excuse for moral relativism. Anderson writes, “While we may hope some [students] are capable of bridging the gap between principled morality and this ethically vacuous relativism, it is evident that a good many are not. For them, the overriding message is ‘never judge, never criticize, never take a position.’” Anderson wonders whether in our current educational system, we’re not producing ethical paralytics? Well, if the horrifying example of the students’ reaction in this case is any indication, Anderson already knows the answer. – Chuck Colson, Jan. 11, 2012
We are not picking on public school teachers, nor blaming the school systems for our shildren. This is just a simple observation – the schools that were intended to teach reading, writing and arithmetic have been drawn into a social engineering experiment run amok in many parts of our country – because we have left behind values that were once clearly part of the American fabric derived from the pages of the Bible. It is for this reason we are making this careful study of the Civil Code of Law in Exodus 21. We have seen that God wants civil society to ENCOURAGE VALUES that He set in individual RESPONSIBILITY and SOCIAL CONSCIENCE. He desires people to define maturity by a marked ability to take responsibility for themselves and their community. It is time for the church to be the clear voice of objective truth in a relative culture – because relativism is KILLING our society by WARPING our social conscience to accept wrong as right.
We have to remember that we are all in this together. We are ONE society, even when we don’t agree. How we act in civil society matters.
Babe Ruth had hit 714 home runs during his baseball career and was playing one of his last full major league games. It was the Braves versus the Reds in Cincinnati. But the great Ruth was no longer as agile as he had once been. He fumbled the ball and threw badly, and in one inning alone his errors were responsible for most of the five runs scored by Cincinnati. As the Babe walked off the field after the third out and headed toward the dugout, a crescendo of yelling and booing reached his ears. Just then a boy jumped over the railing onto the playing field. With tears streaming down his face, he threw his arms around the legs of his hero. Ruth didn’t hesitate for one second. He picked up the boy, hugged him, and set him down on his feet, patting his head gently. The noise from the stands came to an abrupt halt. Suddenly there was no more booing. In fact, hush fell over the entire park. In those brief moments, the fans saw two heroes: Ruth, who in spite of his dismal day on the field could still care about a little boy; and the small lad, who cared about the feelings of another human being. Both had melted the hearts of the crowd. Ted W. Engstrom, The Pursuit of Excellence, 1982, Zondervan Corporation, pp. 66-67.
The Civil Code helps to define both COMMUNITY responsibility and personal responsibility. In this section, we will see an important component of personal responsibility…
Key Principle: Responsibility includes not only what I mean to do (intention), but what happens because of what I do (outcome).
Today we will look at the balance of the passage we have been studying in two previous studies – at Exodus 21:18-19, 22-25, 28-36. I am skipping the passages we have taken on in previous studies of this passage to get to the last three areas of responsibility that we have not looked at thus far.
Exodus 21:18 “If men have a quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but remains in bed, 19 if he gets up and walks around outside on his staff, then he who struck him shall go unpunished; he shall only pay for his loss of time, and shall take care of him until he is completely healed…. 22 “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23 “But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise… 28 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished. 29 “If, however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring and its owner has been warned, yet he does not confine it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 “If a ransom is demanded of him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is demanded of him. 31 “Whether it gores a son or a daughter, it shall be done to him according to the same rule. 32 “If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall give his or her master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. 33 “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, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall become his. 35 “If one man’s ox hurts another’s so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide its price equally; and also they shall divide the dead ox. 36 “Or if it is known that the ox was previously in the habit of goring, yet its owner has not confined it, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall become his.
This sounds like a laundry list of laws – but it is much more. Look closer…We have seen that God desires respect for life, authority and freedom – and he allowed civil authorities the right to execute those who murder, hurt their parents or kidnap another person. We have seen that God has expressed His expectation that His people would respect contractual relationships in the workplace and in the domestic relationships of their lives… Now we go outside the house and workplace… we enter the society as a whole. These three areas of responsibility can apply to ANYWHERE and ANYTIME.
- What is responsibility as God sees it?
- How will I know if I am responsible in HIS EYES?
- What am I specifically responsible to DO in God’s value system?
First, I must take responsibility for personal reactions. Accidental collateral damage of fighting:
For a good word on responsibility for reactions, look at the words in the personal injury section of 21:18-25. There are two distinct areas defined in the passage:
Hurting someone in a conflict with them. Exodus 21:18 “If men have a quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but remains in bed, 19 if he gets up and walks around outside on his staff, then he who struck him shall go unpunished; he shall only pay for his loss of time, and shall take care of him until he is completely healed.
Two men get into a fight. One prevails. Either through fists or with the help of something grabbed during the fight, one man is left standing while the other is knocked off his feet. The law required the “winner” to be responsible for caring for the one he hurt by paying him for the time lost in work, caring directly for him until he is well. If the wound given is severe enough to cause death, he will be forced to flee to a refuge place.
Hurting someone else (collateral damage) in he process of a conflict. Exodus 21:22 “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23 “But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
In the fight between the two men, a pregnant woman was inadvertently hurt. If the woman gave birth right after the struggle – the baby was to be examined to determine if any injury fell to the child. That injury was to be compensated – even up to the life itself.
The two cases both demonstrate clearly one underlying Biblical value:
I alone must be responsible for how I react to things that happen to me. I dare not drop into a “victim mode” without damaging my reputation and ignoring responsibility.
Responsibility is a LEARNED concept. Every stage of a child’s development is marked by their mastery of responsibility:
In Living with Men, E. James Wilder points out each stage of the maturing process, and pushes us to make sure our little boys are mastering each stage toward manhood. He defines maturity as “fully developed for our age” which can be measured in stages by the way we master both “giving” and “receiving” life. He claims that there are five stages of a male’s life:
- Infant: where the boy largely receives without giving, but must learn to quiet himself. He must learn to synchronize his mind and learn to rest. He must learn to appropriately communicate needs in the most basic ways to those who can help him. The goal is a child that can laugh, rest and communicate well.
- Child: where the boy progressively learns to care for himself. He must learn to identify limitation, ask for help and explore what satisfies him each day. He must learn to give and receive freely. Eventually, he must learn to curb appetites, doing things he does not want to do for greater long term benefits. He must learn to connect cause and effect. He must learn where he is on the map of the family, and become self sufficient in care.
- Adult: where the man learns to care for others at the same time as caring for himself. He must learn to take joy from caring for others and protect the needy ones around him. He must not be intimidated, but should not become arrogant. He wants his personal effects to reflect his personal style and character. His goal is to truly understand his impact on others and gain satisfaction from his part of history.
- Father: where the man learns to give life without receiving. This is the peak of a man’s strength and productivity – and it must be balanced with learning sensitivity to those around him. He can express his feelings (“I love my child more than life!”) and he can portray God’s attributes to his family. The goal is to learn to guide others and give joyfully – offering strength and life to his family.
- Elder: where the man offers the care once given to his family to a broader community. He is not simply focused on his own biological offspring, but the greater good of the community. He builds trust through transparency. He offers a history to those around him and finds a recognized guiding place to others. His goal is to help the community grow up and raise a community the way parents raise children.
I mention all this to state clearly that learning responsibility requires reliable guides. We must understand that every adult is, in effect, a parent to the generation that follows them. We are in this CIVIL SOCIETY together. It is why the struggle for values is such a vital one. A boy unprepared with be a man defeated. A man defeated will leave a trail nearly impassable to those who follow him. We see it everywhere in our society… this is a battle worth fighting. It is for the future – and it has been placed on our shoulders by God Himself.
God clearly says that when someone attacked another – The attacked will also be responsible for the response. They should not seek to blame anyone else. The other may have been wrong for attacking, but the attacked must learn to control impulses and reactions and act in a mature fashion. Following this principle, I should recall that when I am defending myself, I must be careful to use only the force necessary to bring the situation under control. I must always be responsible to watch out for collateral damage. I am not only to DRIVE defensively, I am to LIVE circumspectly – recognizing that my behavior affects others in ways beyond my comprehension.
- Do you really believe that Moses knew taking off his shoes and listening at the burning bush would result in God opening the revelation of how the world was made?
- Do you think that Abraham recognized that choosing to follow Sarah’s path into her bondwoman’s tent and father a child would lead to an intractable conflict in the Near East three thousand years later?
- DO you truly think that the Apostle Paul could grasp, with all his Biblical knowledge, that his imprisonment in Rome would open the door to the vital Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians?
It is hard for us to imagine how events are going to play out in the future – so we must act carefully and thoughtfully. An essential sign of maturity is life “handled with care” based on a circumspect view. Look at the passage again for a second area we must learn responsibility.
I am sure our kids don’t realize how their actions wear us out. I love the story about the mom and dad with a son who was a freshman in college. He blew off his freshman year. He wasn’t very responsible, didn’t make good grades, squandered his money, & finally came back home. His parents told him, “If you go back to school you’ll have to pay your own way.” So he had to work that summer & not go on the family vacation. That was part of his punishment. The family went to Greece that year & the mom sent him a postcard, “Dear Son,” she wrote. “Today we stood on the mountains where ancient Spartan women sacrificed their defective children. Wish you were here.” (Melvin Newland, sermon central illustrations).
Second, I must take responsibility for acknowledged oversight. The more I own, the more I am responsible for. Damage by owned beasts:
Exodus 21:28 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished. 29 “If, however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring and its owner has been warned, yet he does not confine it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 “If a ransom is demanded of him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is demanded of him. 31 “Whether it gores a son or a daughter, it shall be done to him according to the same rule. 32 “If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall give his or her master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
Here the law provides for a statement of responsibility over what I have taken in oversight. If a man owns something – he becomes responsible for the maintenance necessary to keep it from harming innocents. If he is found lax in this, he is forced to pay a tremendous price for his irresponsibility. If the property destroys another’s property – the damage must be compensated. If the property causes loss of lie, it cost the owner his life. This had the effect of deterring an owner from laziness in regards to maintaining his property well. The second form of this rule is…
Exodus 21:35 “If one man’s ox hurts another’s so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide its price equally; and also they shall divide the dead ox. 36 “Or if it is known that the ox was previously in the habit of goring, yet its owner has not confined it, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall become his.
If my property harms another’s property through no real fault of either owner – the two owners will need to share the loss. This acknowledges liability without malice.
Since few of us are oxen owners, what is the practical help for modern living from this archaic rule? First, we are reminded that we are to increase our diligence as we increase our holdings. We must be sure when we BUY something, that we can MAINTAIN what we bought – or it will become potentially harmful to us and others.
Second, the principles here demand that we understand how our behaviors affect others – and ourselves. We must gain control over our own emotional structure, then we must care for how we cast a shadow on other lives. I recall reading in None of These Diseases, where Dr. S.I. McMillen says, “Medical science recognizes that emotions such as fear, sorrow, envy, resentment and hatred are responsible for the majority of our sicknesses. Estimates vary from 60 to 100 percents.” One patient was told by his doctor, “If you don’t cut out your resentments, I may have to cut out your intestinal tract.” (sermon central illustrations). We have to gain mastery over our own feelings, then watch out for those around us…
When you drive a poorly maintained vehicle – you put others on the road in danger. We don’t often think of it that way, but it is true. Many accidents are caused by irresponsible drivers operating unsafe vehicles. This standard leads us into our third area of responsibility….
Third, I must act in a way that accepts responsibility for public safety. Damage by negligence:
Exodus 21:33 “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, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall become his.
Two important truths are evident from these verses:
- I am responsible to clean up my own messes and leave the world safer after me.
- I must see myself as responsible even if I didn’t MEAN to have it happen – because my actions caused part of the problem.
It may be hard for us to grasp, but a view of the future is important for real maturity. Mature people try to look at what MAY happen if we don’t act responsibly – immature people just don’t think ahead. I was moved when I read what Stephen Covey wrote about Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychologist who survived the death camps of Nazi Germany. Frankl made a startling discovery about why some survived the horrible conditions and some did not. “He looked at several factors – health, vitality, family structure, intelligence, survival skills. Finally he concluded that none of these factors was primarily responsible. The single most significant factor, he realized, was a sense of future vision – the impelling conviction of those who were to survive that they had a mission to perform, some important work left to do. Survivors of POW camps in Vietnam and elsewhere have reported similar experiences: a compelling, future-oriented vision is the primary force that kept many of them alive.” – Stephen Covey, First Things First, p 103
That is significant. The responsible develop the ability to peer into the future. That offers HOPE when they are in trials, and VIGILANCE when they need to clean up after themselves.
Philip Yancey, in Reaching for the Invisible God describes the terrible misunderstanding of responsibility prevalent in our society this way…
“When Princess Diana died in an automobile accident, a minister was interviewed and was asked the question “How can God allow such a terrible tragedy?” And I loved his response. He said, “Could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going ninety miles an hour in a narrow tunnel? Just How, exactly, was God involved.”
In our weakness and wavering faith, God often gets blamed for things. And we need to be careful about that. Years ago, boxer, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, killed a Korean opponent with a hard right hand to the head. At the press conference after the Korean’s death, Mancini said, “sometimes I wonder why God does the things he does.”
In a letter to Dr. Dobson, a young woman asked this anguished question, “Four years ago, I was dating a man and became pregnant. I was devastated. I asked God, “Why hav eyou allowed this to happen to me?”
Susan Smith, the south Carolina mother a couple years ago who pushed her two sons into a lake to drown and then blamed a fictional car-jacker for the deed, wrote in her confession: “I dropped to the lowest point when I allowed my children to go down that ramp into the water without me. I took off running and screaming, ‘Oh God! Oh God, no! What have I done? Why did you let this happen?”
Now the question remains, exactly what role did God play in a boxer beating his opponent to death, a teenage couple giving into temptation in the back seat of a car, or a mother drowning her children?”
The thread that bound all these quotes was the misunderstanding in our society of what it means to be RESPONSIBLE. God defined responsibility in His Word. Responsibility includes not only what I mean to do (intention), but what happens because of what I do (outcome). With God’s marvelous freedom – where He has opened the door to me making choices… there comes an awesome set of responsibilities.