By Michael V. Wilson
Too often people think that if they're obeying man's law they're doing the right thing and being moral. This attitudes arises from the universally understood, but often unspoken and unwritten, assumption that man's law and God's Law should be the same. Unfortunately, they aren't. Indeed, many times they are diametrically opposed.
Consider the case of personal property, which would include pets and farm animals, that is lost or misplaced. From Cornell University Law School we find this explanation about lost property and the legal implications for the finder:
The common law distinguished between lost property and mislaid property. Lost property is personal property that was unintentionally left by its true owner. Mislaid property is personal property that was intentionally set down by its owner and then forgotten. For example, a wallet that falls out of someone's pocket is lost. A wallet accidentally left on a table in a restaurant is mislaid.
At common law, a person who found lost personal property could keep it until and unless the original owner comes forward. This rule applied to people who discovered lost property in public areas, as well as to people who discovered lost property on their property. Mislaid property, on the other hand, generally goes to the owner of the property where it was found. Thus, for example, a person who finds a wallet lost in the street may keep it. If, however, a person finds a wallet inside a barbershop, the shop owner might have a better claim to the wallet. The basic theory behind this distinction is that owners of mislaid property are more likely to remember where the property is. Allowing property owners to keep it makes it easier for the true owner to recover the property.
Real property may not be lost or mislaid.
Many jurisdictions have statutes that modify the common law's treatment of lost or abandoned property. Typically, these statutes require lost personal property to be turned over to a government official, and that if the property is not claimed within a set period of time, it goes to the finder and the original owner's rights to the property are terminated.
Basically it says, unless the original owner comes looking for their property, and can prove it's theirs, then its “finder's keepers, losers weepers.” This is the morality of godless pagans (also known as lawyers).
God's Law by contrast, imposes a positive requirement on the finder to restore the property to it's rightful owner. We see this first in Leviticus 6:3-4,
. . . or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely – in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins: then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found . . .
Here we see God equating refusing to restore a lost thing with actually stealing it. In God's eyes there's no difference; they're one and the same. If you don't give it back, you're committing the sin of stealing, violating the 8th Commandment – Thou shalt not steal.
We find a similar requirement in Deuteronomy 22:1, concerning lost livestock,
You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother.
In their gut, most people instinctively know this. It's only when we grow up and learn the ways of the world that we loose our moral bearings and drift off course. Once those ways have become fully ingrained, it's very difficult to go back and admit you're wrong. Humble pie can be awkward and embarrassing to take.
Thank God for the grace and forgiveness offered by Jesus!
But the following simple test; “What do most people do when confronted with lost property?” can be an excellent indicator of what kind of country you're in. If most people actively attempt to return the property to it's owner, you're probably in a Christian or Jewish country. If most people simply take the property for themselves, you're probably in a pagan country.
God's Laws make all the difference in the world!