You shall not steal. (Exodus 2:15)

From the quotation above, we find that Jewish wisdom openly declares that everybody has the right to ownership, since it is only possible for one to steal from another only if the other person owns the object of desire.

The right to own things is not a man made concept, but a divine declaration for humans to observe so we may live in peace together. This is the basis why we need to return what we borrow from another.

The wicked borrows and does not pay back, But the righteous is gracious and gives. (Psalm 37:21)

Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. (Romans 13:8)

These two quotations will have no basis if not for the ‘right to own’ bestowed by the Creator.

However, when we borrow something, our obligation is not just toward the person whom we borrowed from.

Before we borrow anything, we also need to consider whether our ‘future self’ will have the ability and commitment to return what we desire to borrow. When we borrow from someone else, we are essentially borrowing from ourselves, because it is our ‘future self’ who has the burden of returning what is borrowed by our ‘present self’.

Thus, we have an obligation towards our ‘future self’ when we borrow, because this ‘future self’ has a right to own things. If we borrow without having commitment and building the capacity to return the item in the future, then we are in fact stealing from our future selves and putting this other person (our future self) in debt and lack.

There is little wonder why the Lord’s hope and declaration for ancient Jewish people were that ‘Yahweh shall open for you his rich storehouse, even the heavens, to give the rain for your land in its time and to bless all of the work of your hand, and you will lend to many nations; you will not borrow from them. (Deuteronomy 28:12).

So next time you wish to borrow, consider really carefully lest you steal from yourself. All borrowing is in fact borrowing from oneself.

My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck.
When you walk, their counsel will lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you.
When you wake up, they will advise you. For their command is a lamp and their instruction a light;
their corrective discipline is the way to life.
(Proverbs 6:20-23)

Leadership should have a purpose. It’s purpose is ultimately for the benefit of the followers and the leader.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother, in order that it may be well with you, and you may live a long time on the earth.” And fathers, do not make your children angry, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-3)

Parents are instructed to be equipped with wisdom from God (i.e. parents must learn to follow leadership for their benefit), and impart them to their children. And children must learn to obey their parents, following wisdom for their own benefit.

Why is this the most important step?

Because when children learn to obey good leadership for their own benefit throughout the course of their younger years, they will also gain a sense of the importance and purpose of good leadership. This imparts a rationale and desire (or at the very least reduce the passiveness) to become leaders in the situations they face in life, knowing that leadership is a good thing. Put simply, no one will want to become a leader if they find no reason and purpose in leadership. And the first step to help one experience the purpose of leadership and taste its goodness is by following.

It is not easy to be a leader. One must first acquire a sense of the goodness of leadership to overcome the hurdle and sustain the willingness to be one. And for children, it begins with their parents taking up the responsibility of wise parentship, and requiring good childrenship from their young followers.

And in situations where there is no need for one to lead another, at least we will have helped children to be leaders of themselves – self-united and motivated individuals who will not easily despair.

What has money got to do with blood?

In many ways, money is like blood.

Blood is a body fluid in humans and other animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells. Blood is circulated around the body through blood vessels by the pumping action of the heart.

In human society, money largely enables the exchange of goods and services, so that people can provide for what others need, and receive what others can provide for them. On the positive side, money carries the spiritual qualities of humans’ work, creativity, care and concern for one another through it’s flow in the economy.

Next time you need an analogy for money, think of blood and you will realise how precious and important money is for human society and yourself. It helps prevent us from gross greed or dishonesty when dealing with money, knowing that the other party needs that ‘blood’ to provide what we need. Also, it motivates us to participate in society to provide for what others need so this ‘blood’ will flow into us in order that we can continue to function as part of the human race.

During my travels to Korat and Bangkok, Thailand in the late 90’s, at many bazaars, one would hear stall owners saying ’Same same’ in their local accent to customers, in the bid to convey that their products were similar in quality but cheaper than the next stall’s.

As years went by, this would become iconic and the ‘Same same’ phrase started appearing on Tshirts and other products. Not long after, someone started tagging the words ‘But Different’ to it, and so became ‘Same Same, But different’. I believe this was meant to be a cheeky response to the shop owners, saying that surely there were some differences. But I think this goes deeper when applied to humanity and cultures. On the positive side, it implies that although we are all humans, we are not identical but unique individuals. However, seen negatively, this emphasizes our differences and separates us, and it needn’t be.

Let’s twist the phrase around, and it makes a big difference – ‘Different, but Same Same’ – that although we are different, there’s so much that are similar among us, in all of the happiness, dullness, sadness, and suffering we encounter. In fact, I believe our differences are superficial but our sameness are fundamental.

“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
– John F Kennedy

“Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”
– Henri Nouwen

Hopefully our same-ness will surprise, interest, shock, awe, tickle or even bring us to tears.

“I came across humanity in Istanbul, and all I know about life comes from Istanbul, and definitely, I am writing about Istanbul. I also love the city because I live there, it has formed me, and it’s me. Of course it is natural. If somebody lived all his life in Delhi, he will write about Delhi.”
– Orhan Pamuk

We need one another to reveal our own humanity. Same same but different but same same!