The short answer to the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is, yes! God calls us to look out for the welfare of those around us, realizing that our actions have a direct impact on the community in which we live. Just as God showed us grace when we were slaves to sin, so we, too, are to reflect the grace of His Son to those around us.
Whether we intend to damage someone else’s property or not, God expects us to take full responsibility for our actions. We have a duty to restore what was lost based on the eighth commandment. But what about when our offense is against God himself and what has been lost is our own righteousness? In that case, restitution can only be made by a perfect substitute who is willing to take personal responsibility for our sin, and who has done so on the cross.
At first glance, the list of crimes and punishments in Exodus 21 scarcely seem applicable to our lives. Upon further examination, however, they reveal the heart of a God who desires justice and peace among His people that is consistent, proportional, contextual, and merciful. Such justice is made possible only through the One who faced the ultimate punishment we deserved so that we might experience His infinite grace.