God’s Design for Society. Maybe It’s Time We Look.

“Be responsible.” How many times have you wanted to scream it at the TV? Or a professional athlete? Or a politician? Or your children? (Hmm, seems I don’t have enough fingers and toes.) For some reason being responsible is not something that runs parallel with our natural desires. Instead, it’s just easier to shrink back and blame someone else.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 21:12 – 22:15
Key Verse: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10


Especially if the elicited result was merely an accident. Right? I mean who wants to take responsibility when you didn’t mean to do it? No one, that’s who. For example, the following is a common conversation I have all the time with my beautiful little blessings:

“Mom, he hit me!” says child A.
“But I didn’t mean to!” says child B.
“Well even if you didn’t mean to, you need to apologize and take responsibility for your actions,” says the exasperated mother.
“But I DIDN’T mean to!!” says child B louder this time.
“It doesn’t matter whether you meant to or not. Tell your brother you’re sorry for hitting him,” says the exasperated mother A LITTLE LOUDER THIS TIME.

Can I get an amen? I know I’m not the only one repeatedly having this conversation. In fact, I’m just sure you’re nodding your head in agreement right now.

Taking responsibility for our actions is not something we like to do, nor want to do, nor take any pleasure in doing, but it’s Biblical. (Surprise, surprise.)  Exodus 21 and 22, our text today, leaves no room for doubt on the matter. In both passages God expounds on the law by giving a list of rules or examples that were to help Israel’s leaders judge cases, usually at the city gate. So beginning with instances of personal injury done to others, like, well, murder the LORD covers an array of incidents on down to the accidental injury of a neighbor’s animal.

These rulings were part of the Book of the Covenant Israel agreed to live by in Exodus 24. It helped them function as a nation. Remember they had been under the not so wonderful example of Egyptian jurisdiction for almost half a century. So it was important God set some new parameters if they were to be His treasured possession and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6).

In every case or ruling the punishment was to fit the crime. There were no million-dollar lawsuits for a cup of spilled coffee. The principle used was Lex Talionis. Described in Exodus 21:23 like this, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

However, the only instance we see this play out literally is with murder. If someone purposefully took the life of another, he was to pay with his own life. Yes, the Bible supports Capital punishment my friend. God values the sanctity of life too much not to. Only in the case of an accidental death was the offender’s life to be spared.

Otherwise Lex Talionis was not to be taken literally, especially in matters of personal dispute. If someone cut your ear off, it wasn’t a free pass to turn around and cut off theirs. That’s not what God had in mind as Christ makes clear in Matthew 5. Lex Talionis was to be the principle guide used by Israel’s judicial system (consisting mostly of elders at the city gate). It insured punishment for the offender, all the while protecting them from being unjustly punished.

The idea is appropriate restitution. If you wrong a brother (or sister for that matter), then make it right. If it’s an injury, pay for their time off work and the medical care needed to get better (Ex. 21:19). If you harm your slave – let them go free (v. 26). If you dig a pit and your neighbors donkey falls into it, pay for your neighbor to get a new donkey (v. 34). If your animals graze in your neighbor’s field, make restitution by giving them the best of your own field (22:5).

In other words, BE RESPONSIBLE.

If you make a mess, clean it up! If you borrow a friend’s shovel and it breaks don’t just give them back a broken shovel; buy them a new one, even if it was an accident. If you push someone down, help them up, even if you didn’t mean to send them to the floor.

Be a neighbor. This was God’s hope for his people. And it told the Israelites they served a fair God. A fact I’ve contested with God from time to time when I didn’t get my way, but the revealing of his law clearly paints the portrait of a fair God.

However, enforcing these standards is not the job of the offended, but the official or the judge or the jury sitting inside a sweltering hot courtroom. (I don’t know why, it just seems like it should be sweltering hot in there.) But my personal responsibility is forgiveness and love and peace and kindness that I might be an instrument of righteousness God uses to bring the lost to saving faith. (The heart of what Christ was getting at in Matthew 5.)

So there is responsibility on all sides my friend. No one gets off scotch free. My neighbor might owe me a new shovel, but I owe my neighbor the hand of forgiveness and the decency to not tell everyone in town he broke my shovel.

But the problem is we’ve set aside the example God’s laid out for us in Exodus 21 and 22. One of respect and decency towards one another. One of restitution. One of responsibility. One in which the punishment fits the crime. Our legal system has gone both ways. Handing out victorious lawsuits for vain charges. And/or not handing out insufficient correction for convicted criminals.

Now I may not be able to do anything about the government that oversees me, but I can certainly do something about the God who oversees me. I can honor Him by recognizing his sovereign design for society and model it. I can take responsibility for my actions and teach my children to do the same. I can say I’m sorry even when it was merely an accident. I can buy new shovels when necessary and keep my mouth shut and reign in my heart when required.

I can know God’s word and I can live it myself. Because God’s ways are not old fashion, but expertly crafted for a people He knew would have ample opportunities to say, “I’m sorry,” and make restitution for the error of their ways.

Bottom line – I can be responsible for my heart and mind and actions and reactions. Because living accountable for our actions is not just a fleeting hope we have for our government officials or the professional athlete our kids look up to so much. But it’s the hope of God for all of us.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What do you need to take responsibility for today? And where do you need to extend the hand of forgiveness?
In what ways is God’s design for society upheld today and in what ways is it not?

It's the hope of God

Subscribe Today
And never miss another Deeper Devo. Plus, you'll receive a free print-at-home family devotional/coloring book. What could be better? (Don't answer that.)
We respect your privacy.

Our Problem Isn’t the Government, It’s Holiness

I admit, I’m fearful. As a mother with four young children I’m deeply concerned about the future of this nation and what it holds for my littles. More than anything I want Christianity to be the religion our country holds closest to and the foundation we still stand upon.

But it’s not anymore. Biblical values are no longer the driving force behind societal right and wrongs. We gave that seat to political correctness and women’s activism quite some time ago.

Not that I don’t think men and women are created equal. Not that I don’t think women should have rights. We do and we should. But something’s gone terribly wrong in our society. And instead of facing the music. Instead of digging in to see where we may have gone wrong, fessing up to mistakes, and seeking to make it right, we just blame the government.  

Who is absolutely at fault, don’t get me wrong. We have leaders leading us in just about every wrong direction. Upholding lifestyles of immorality as good and normal. Passing abortion laws under the pretense of women’s rights instead of advocating a beautiful thing called adoption. Making decisions they have no right to make.

And it makes me want to scream. To get in the face of these so called wise people and tell them a thing or two about what I really think of them and their plans to steal the freedom of my children and belittle life.

So I yell at the TV and pray. Asking God to do something. To intercede. To bring revival. To protect me and my comfortable life. To work in the hearts of those in authority. Or remove them or replace them or keep them from putting in place rules and regulations that might hinder my lovely little existence.

Which is not wrong. We need to be praying, especially for our leaders. But I think we’ve forgotten something. (Or at least I had.) Something not necessarily easy, but important. And undeniably vital to the heartbeat of God.

I think we’ve forgotten holiness.

The setting apart of God’s people for righteousness. 1 Peter 1:15 says we are to be holy as He is holy. We are to conduct ourselves in such a way that matches the character of He who indwells us. For we are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” saved to proclaim the excellencies of Christ (1 Peter 2:9). Yet what do our attitudes and actions and apathy most often proclaim?

We pray and then we go back to conformity. We ask, but then we go sit in front of the TV. Watching shows that take God’s name in vain and uphold sex outside of marriage and praise divorce and normalize weak men and applaud aggressive youth.  

We uphold Friends as one of the best sitcoms ever and post pictures of ourselves devouring reruns when almost every episode includes sexual immorality. We get more excited about the comeback of Gilmore Girls than we ever have about the coming of Christ.

We play video games that kill and we brag about it. We engross ourselves in murder mysteries and the nightly news, instead of engrossing ourselves in God’s word. Teaching our kids it’s ok to toe the line. To watch sin and laugh at it and be a part of it as long as it’s just on TV or with a gaming controller.

Which has me wondering, why would God ever want to move on behalf of such an apathetic people? A people who profess his name on Sunday’s but haphazardly throw him on the shelf Monday through Saturday. Who sit and laugh at the stuff he hates. Who live in a constant state of inconsistency. Who say they are Christians but could care less to uphold what Christ actually says.

We seek His intervention, but we don’t seek His Word. We covet His action, but we don’t covet His attributes.

Yet it’s holiness that moves God to act on behalf of his people and always has been. When the Israelites obeyed the LORD, God protected and prospered them. But when they profaned his name and acted in wickedness, God rejected them.

Not that he wanted to, but in holiness he had to for they refused to obey. “My people have turned their backs on me and have refused to return. Even though I diligently taught them, they would not receive instruction or obey” (Jeremiah 32:33, NLT).

God desires obedience. The cross didn’t change that. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).

Beloved, it’s holiness that moves God. When his people choose to do that which is honoring to him, he can’t help but respond. It’s our sin that keeps him quiet. Isaiah 59:1-2 says, “Listen! The LORD’S arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (NLT).

Our sins.

Yet the LORD encouraged Israel with this, “I have swept away your sins like a cloud, I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free” (Is. 44:22, NLT).

Return to Him! Not just in word but in deed. In holiness. In righteousness. The government has nothing on God. His presence alone “brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness” (Is. 40:23).

But why would God act on behalf of a people who live as though they care nothing for him? Profaning not only his name, but his holiness.

Yes, we can pray. Yes, we can ask God to heal our land but without a return to holiness, without a whole hearted seeking of God and a good riddance to the sin we’ve let infiltrate our daily lives for far too long , I sincerely wonder at the outcome.

“This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:26 NLT  

I can only imagine what God might do if we – his people – asked for the old, godly way, and walked in it. It starts with us friends. It starts with us.

img_3501

Photo provided by @wittersgarden. Follow them on Instagram for more fun inspiration.