Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Nephite law for unpaid debts


 Now if a man owed another, and he would not pay that which he did owe, he was complained of to the judge; and the judge executed authority, and sent forth officers that the man should be brought before him; and he judged the man according to the law and the evidences which were brought against him, and thus the man was compelled to pay that which he owed, or be stripped, or be cast out from among the people as a thief and a robber. (Alma 11:2)

Here we have a list of possible judgments for those who don’t pay their debts. 
1.     Those who have the means to pay can be compelled to pay what was owed.
2.     Those who don’t have liquid funds but do have tangible property that can go for the debt can be stripped of their possessions, probably to be sold to pay the debt.
3.     Those who have neither funds nor tangible property sufficient to cover the debt can be cast out from the people as a thief and a robber.

We might ask ourselves, why were those who had nothing to pay cast out?  It seems like a pretty tough judgment.  Well, you have to have someway of maintaining trust between people.  In a small community, people know who is trustworthy or not.  If the community is too large or people are moving in and out too quickly to get to know how trustworthy they are, it becomes very difficult to know who you can trust to repay debts and who you can’t.  (With our modern technology, we have credit ratings agencies now who do a lot of the work of tracking who pays and who doesn’t.)  If the number of people you can’t trust in a community becomes too great, then the burden of securing your goods becomes too great and real business and production suffers.  So, to minimize that burden, the untrustworthy people are expelled.

The next question we might ask is why the labels of “thief and robber”?   Would not one suffice?  It so happens that “thief” is different from “robber,” and a recalcitrant debtor shares characteristics of both.  A thief is one who steals without you knowing it and you find out later.  A robber is one who brazenly takes things from you to your face.   The dishonest debtor takes your money to your face (promising to pay but not intending to do so) and you find out later that their repayment of your money is missing.

I could make some comments about what our society might look like if Nephite laws were followed in our country, but it seems to me there is another lesson to take from it that is more personal.  That lesson comes as we realize that each of us is in debt to God.  We have incurred large debts because of our sins and those debts must be paid.  No tangible property can pay this debt because all we have belongs to God anyway.   Without Christ, each of the above penalties will be ours—we will be forced to pay our own debt, we will be stripped, and we will be cast out from the presence of God.   

Or we can reach out to our Savior and Mediator Jesus Christ to pay the debt for us and repent.  

4 comments:

Ramona Gordy said...

Here is one of those "moments" we spoke of on previous posts. Thank you for this, I have been "impressed" to study this message in Malachi 3;8-9
8 will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offering.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Did not King Benjamin state that we are all beggars, but I feel that sometimes the word "beggar" takes on a more pronounced meaning that you have touched on in this post. At time's a beggar comes in deceit and hold's back, shortening the hand of the one who can bless him.
Good post, I will "chew" on this some more.
PS Happy Near Year Michaela xoxoxo

Michaela Stephens said...

Ramona, excellent point about how withholding tithing is robbing God. We are now in a position to understand how blatant that sin is to Him.

I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean about beggars, though. Fill free to clarify.

Happy New Year to you too! :-D (hugs)

Ben said...

Love the personal application. We are all in debt to God, and will be cast out unless we turn to Christ. Just found your blog, I look forward to more of your thoughts.

www.bensopinion.com

Ramona Gordy said...

Michaela
Sorry for the confusion, I have those moments when I know what I want to say, and I am saying it, but it does not come out right. So you can disregard my last statement concerning beggars if you want, unless you figure it out, :)LOL, I will return and report back to you with what I meant.
Thanks

Here is one of those "moments" we spoke of on previous posts. Thank you for this, I have been "impressed" to study this message in Malachi 3;8-9
8 will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offering.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.