Inspiration

Ancient Landmarks…Modern Implications

Richard Parrish
Jul 24, 2024
5 min read
“Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” - Proverbs 22:28 (ESV)

The wise words recorded in Proverbs can be challenging for people raised in a non-agrarian society.

  

A farmer could increase the size of his property by decreasing his neighbor’s property simply via moving stones (ancient landmarks). Before sophisticated modern survey techniques, boundaries were established by stones carefully placed on the corners of one’s property.

The Bible frequently mentions the sin of moving boundary stones (Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2; Proverbs 22:28; 23:10; Hosea 5:10). This sin violates the eighth commandment: “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15).

Taking another person’s property without permission or legal right—without any intention of returning it—is thievery.

Stealing is a breach of trust!

Today, defined boundaries are more sophisticated than stone markers. Legal documents stipulate the demarcation of borders by physical objects (walls, signs, and fences) or natural or geometric lines determined by skilled surveyors.

 

When a neighbor today questions whether your fence is located on her property, legal records are called upon to determine who is right.

The repetitive Biblical command not to remove ancient landmarks was necessary then, and it is equally essential today. Why? Because breaking trust has enormous consequences.

Broken trust encourages the creation of walls, which increases anxiety, resentment, and severed relationships. When my actions remove “ancient landmarks” (boundaries established for us to live peacefully with each other), I am no longer trustworthy.

Think of a time when someone you trusted betrayed you. It would surprise me if you did not feel anger, sadness, and hurt. Possibly, the lingering experience encouraged depression and anxiety.

The wise reminder of the author of Proverbs alerts us to our responsibility not to remove ancient landmarks (to avoid stealing).

I think it’s safe to say that most of us are not purposefully trying to change the boundaries of our neighbor’s property line. However, our actions (intentional or not) can often breach trust by not respecting the boundaries of others.

Trust is the cornerstone of any strong relationship. What took years to build can quickly be destroyed by careless and selfish actions.   

Building and maintaining trust begins by honouring boundaries.

When we ignore or disrespect the boundaries of others, we rob them to serve our own interests.

Here are a few ways we can remove stones that mark boundaries and how we can violate trust.

  • Lying. A lie can quickly shatter commitment, effort, and time spent building trust. Aside from creating distrust, the person who lies receives a significant blow to their reputation. Lying destroys relationships.

“A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin” (Proverbs 26:28).

  • Hypocrisy. A hypocrite is one whose words or appearance are contrary to their behavior. What they say is betrayed by their actions. They are insincere, two-faced, and deceitful. Hypocrisy causes conflict, resentment, and mistrust. 

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1 ESV).

  • Underhandedness. People who use underhanded methods or cheat are more than annoying. They are dishonest and spurious and unworthy of our trust. 

“As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right” (Isaiah 32:7 ESV).

  • Manipulation. Those who are friendly and positive toward others for selfish purposes are quick to steal what they want at your expense. Once they get what they want, they ignore you and avoid taking responsibility for any damage caused to your reputation. 

“For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive” (Romans 16:18 ESV).

We rob others when we remove the ancient landmarks (boundary markers). 

  • Reacting before learning the facts removes a boundary marker.
  • Demeaning and disrespecting a fellow worker removes boundary markers.
  • Dishonest motives remove boundary markers.

When our actions breach trust, lives are damaged and relationships destroyed.

Perhaps there’s still much to learn from an ancient proverb!

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