You shall not watch your neighbor’s ox or sheep straying away and ignore them; you shall take them back to their owner. If the owner does not reside near you or you do not know who the owner is, you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until the owner claims it; then you shall return it. You shall do the same with a neighbor’s donkey; you shall do the same with a neighbor’s
garment; and you shall do the same with anything else that your neighbor loses and you find. You may not withhold your help. You shall not see your neighbor’s donkey or ox fallen on the road and ignore it; you shall help to lift it up .
Nature is cruel. Recently, a bunny made a nest in our yard to give birth. The morning after I noticed the nest, a large bird carried one of her newborns away. Before it lifted off, the mother bunny gave chase; strangely, after lift off, robins also gave chase toward the thief. An ornithologist might have a different view of robins, but I sensed a rabbit, robin alliance. Nature is not always cruel. Compassion is a part of life too.
Evolution, manifested in all life processes, involves the use of competitive advantage. We build wealth from skill sets and hoard more than we share. When a boxer cuts an opponent’s face, he does not ignore it but keeps jabbing the wound. When I saw the bird using its advantage to raid the rabbit’s nest, at that moment I asked God to help me understand religion’s role in the evolution of life.
The verses above are a few of many legal codes in the Bible. They reveal a countervailing orientation to life that softens the brutal imposition of advantage. They urge restraint. We are not to exploit every gain to advance ourselves. On that horrific morning, I remember thinking robins have more sense than people. Accumulation stems from fear of death. The late economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, wrote, “Money brings no honor in itself; it must be advertised.”
Among the blessings faith in God brings to us, one treasure is the softening effect it has on the evolutionary impulse to dominate. Since we’re all in life together, by faith we can behave more like the robins I saw the day the bunny’s baby was hoisted away. The robins pointed me to God. Christ points the way and is our way. Giving away all that we can helps heal the cruelty of life and makes us more like Jesus.
Pastor Doug Heagy