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You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain. (Deuteronomy 25:4)

This passage singles out the ox but should, obviously, be applied to all beasts that are in service to mankind. The primary issue is to point out how unfair and inconsiderate it is to expect an animal to work while depriving them of sustenance. In general, the Torah teaches that a person should consider an animal’s health and well being just as he would consider a person. For instance, the Torah declares that animals are to share in the rest that occurs on Shabbat. Also, prohibitions against cruelty to animals first appear in the Law of Moses. Solomon said, “A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Proverbs 12:10).

If it is inconsiderate to push an animal to work hard without tending to their needs, then it is even more inconsiderate to push a person to work for you without making certain their needs are satisfied. For instance, in the preceding chapter, the Bible teaches that an employer should never oppress a hired servant or withhold a worker’s wage: “for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be sin to you” (Deuteronomy 24:15). How can one expect another to work for them if that person doesn’t have proper resources to secure what his family needs day to day?

It seems to me that this command, in addition to looking out for those less fortunate, calls attention to our inclination to think only of ourselves and what is going on in our lives. It is far too easy for us to put our needs and goals ahead of everything and everyone, and in the process, take advantage of those enlisted to help us. In short, this is yet another command that compels us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In conclusion, treat with kindness and consideration those the Father has placed in your life to help you in your journey. Don’t live in expectation that others are to do for you; live life with the attitude of being a servant to others.

Blessings and Shalom,  




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