Pride, Pity, and Proverbial Prudence
What do you find in common with the following idioms/proverbs?
- Finders, keepers; losers, weepers.
- Move your meat, lose your seat.
- Paybacks are paid back.
- He who laughs last, laughs best.
- Every man for himself.
- Talk to the hand, the hand understands.
- Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.
Me, I find selfishness, self-centeredness, and a total lack of compassion. I have never liked any of these idioms or ones like them. In them, I find a world of darkness with no joy and no peace, and it’s a place most of us likely have dwelt, but I’d guess few want to live there. While there are times our compassion may be unappreciated, and maybe even times where we’re used and abused for being kind and compassionate, the inside feeling is better than the emptiness of living only to ourselves. God created our world for receiving by giving. His word puts it this way in Luke 6:38 (KJV for familiarity)…
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 21:22 through Deuteronomy 22:7, Moses recaps a bit more from the law under which Israel will live in the land of their inheritance. He begins by telling them that in cases of capital crime where an offender is hanged on a tree, the community needs to take him down and bury him the same day because of the curse associated with death by hanging. Leaving the body in the tree will defile the land. Personally, I like this command because I don’t think I’d want to see death displayed before me day after day. It can only create pride or pity, neither of which are good for us.
At the chapter change, the subject changes to how men should treat properties belonging to their brothers. The first command speaks the exact opposite of the first idiom mentioned above. It says that if someone sees his brother’s animal wandering off, he should not act like he didn’t see anything, but he should take it back to the rightful owner. If his brother is gone, or if he doesn’t know who the owner is, he should keep it and care for it until it can be returned. This command goes for animals, clothing, and anything else someone loses. If the people find anything a brother loses, they must not ignore it, and this also applies if the animal is collapsed in the road and needs help getting up. This certainly defies idiom number 5.
The next command tells the community how to dress to impress. A man should not wear clothes that belong to a woman, and a woman should not wear clothes that belong to a man. Whoever dresses in the other gender’s clothing is detestable to God.
I want to note here that I believe this is talking about clothes that actually belong to the other gender, as in having been worn by them and carrying bodily chemicals that are gender-specific, but I’m not certain. It makes sense because of women and anything they touch being considered unclean during their time of the month. If it is talking about actual “cross-dressing,” I can’t see it being detestable to God to dress in a costume for a play, or for a woman to put on her husband’s jacket when she’s cold. I can, however, see it being detestable for someone to purposely try to become something other than what God made him or her to be.
The last command in today’s reading speaks of finding a bird’s nest in a tree or on the ground. If the mother is sitting on chicks or eggs, the finder is to let the mother go but may keep the chicks. In the reading, it says this will cause things to go well with the community and prolong people’s lives. I don’t know if this is for the purpose of raising the chicks or eating the eggs. Either will allow the mother bird to be free to lay more eggs.
Much of what we’ve studied in almost a year of Torah reading seems to come down to two things: common sense (prudence), and trusting in God’s perspective–which is also common sense. If we believe that God created the world, it is common sense to think He will know the best way to live in it and take care of it. If we believe He created us, then trusting His instruction for our life manual also seems sensible. Simply looking at the laws of the harvest (only gaining a harvest by planting something and only growing whatever we plant) should be enough to show that living only to ourselves will not result in growth or abundance. If we think our lives will work any differently, it’s pride. If we think someone else doesn’t deserve to reap what they sow, that’s unearned pity. If we can tell the difference in proverbs to live by and those to avoid, that’s proverbial prudence, common sense, and Godly wisdom.
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