Hide or Seek

Bruce Green



Jesus summed up the Torah as being about loving God exclusively and loving your neighbor as yourself. But of course, He did more than talk about it; He modeled it in all aspects of His life so that when we look at Him, we see someone who was the epitome of loving God and others.

To that end, Deuteronomy 22:1-4 is a text designed to show Israel an important element involved in loving their neighbor and living out community. Anyone taking even a casual trip through the book will quickly see that living as community is one of its chief concerns. Living in the promised land would be great for Israel, and part of what would make it that way would be them allowing their lives to be shaped by the book’s teaching in regard to their life together.

The overall aim of these verses was more than simply involvement with those around them — it was a call for them to take initiative. It was active, not passive goodwill they were called to practice. The difference is substantial. Involved but not initiating means that we are usually doing what someone told us needed to be done. This is not a bad thing. It’s the construction worker following the blueprints. But initiating means we have taken an extra step and are on the lookout for things that need to be done; we’re not waiting for someone to tell us. It is the construction worker tweaking his plans to add a doggie door. Involvement is good, but initiative is better.

With this in mind, Israel was told — as some of the older translations have it — not to “hide” themselves (v. 1, 4) when they saw a neighbor’s ox, sheep, donkey or cloak where it was not supposed to be. They were to take it upon themselves to get it back to them. They were to live with this seeking attitude.

This would be quite beneficial to their neighbor, as these animals weren’t pets, but rather a substantial part of their economic livelihood. But of even greater importance, this attitude would cultivate the sense of community they needed to thrive and prosper. After all, having your animal(s) returned was good. Knowing you had a neighbor who had your back was even better.

All this calls us away from self-absorption and to living outside ourselves. It means we are aware and alert to what is going on around us. That is the spirit these verses push us toward. Like turtles, we’ll make no progress until we are willing to stick our neck out.

Hide or seek? The choice is ours.

Green has written a book on the model prayer called “Praying in the Reign.” It is available through 21st Century Christian.

You can find more of his writings at his website: www.a-taste-of-grace-with-bruce-green.com.


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