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KEEPERS: Finders Keepers

KEEPERS: Finders Keepers

Some of you may remember this story . . .

In 2004, a North Carolina businessman named John Wood was in a plane crash with his father. Wood barely survived the crash, and was left with one major life-altering problem—the loss of his left leg. Tragically, his father did not survive the crash. Grieving and wanting to somehow memorialize what had happened, Wood decided to keep the leg, embalm it himself, and store it inside a BBQ smoker he kept in his storage unit. (You can’t make this up). But in 2007, when he failed to pay rent on the unit, his things were put up for auction . . .

Enter Shannon Whisnant (now charged with attempted bank “scare” for showing up at a bank before it opens with a gun and trying to get in. Yup.). Whisnant bought the BBQ smoker at the auction and found Wood’s amputated leg inside. His gruesome discovery quickly became national news, drawing the attention of many bored individuals willing to pay a fee to see it and buy t-shirts that say “Foot Smoker BBQ.” (And, no, I don’t do drugs. I really did not make this up).

Wood, seeing his beloved leg on the news, gets in touch with Whisnant to ask for his limb to be returned because he would like to someday be buried with it. Whisnant refused, citing the principal of “finders keepers.” And, there it is. The ultimate trump (or is it Carson now? Clinton? Let's just stop!) card. Finders Keepers. A game of old. I said it to my brother many times growing up: “Finders keepers, losers weepers.”

This idiom comes from an ancient Roman law that stated if something is unowned or abandoned, whoever finds it can claim it. The difficulty, over the centuries, with this principle is defining the moment something becomes unowned or abandoned. At what point was Wood’s leg no longer his? When it went up for auction? Or does the fact that he was born with it givin him some sort of eternal right to the leg? When a person dies, are their organs up for grabs because they cannot claim them?

This principle does not apply only to inanimate objects. A lost dog or a wandering cat can find itself the property of a new owner or a shelter if not "found" by the original owner. What about children? Unowned and abandoned children—who do they belong to? Can adults be abandoned, unowned, lost then found?

We see a dispute like this take place in a valley in Moab. “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'” Jude 1:9

What was this dispute about? The Desire of Ages gives us a little insight (thankfully!) – “Upon Mount Pisgah fifteen centuries before, Moses had stood gazing upon the Land of Promise. But because of his sin at Meribah, it was not for him to enter there. Not for him was the joy of leading the host of Israel into the inheritance of their fathers. His agonized entreaty, 'I pray Thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon' (Deuteronomy 3:25), was refused. The hope that for forty years had lighted up the darkness of the desert wanderings must be denied. A wilderness grave was the goal of those years of toil and heart-burdening care. But He who is 'able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think' (Ephesians 3:20), had in this measure answered His servant’s prayer. Moses passed under the dominion of death, but he was not to remain in the tomb. Christ Himself called him forth to life. Satan the tempter had claimed the body of Moses because of his sin; but Christ the Saviour brought him forth from the grave. Jude 9.” {DA 421.3}

I love this for so many reasons. But, for starters, I love that Moses was depressed about God’s judgment on him and asked God to change His mind. Meanwhile, God is like, “Oh, you’re gonna see the promise land, but with a much better view.” Okay?! God is so sneaky, and totally surprised Moses by taking him up to heaven with Him instead of just getting to go see the little earthly milk and honey. Moses, here is your mansion in the sky with your own pool of it. Have fun swimming. God is just so awesome!

Okay, so the second reason I love this: Satan comes and pronounces judgment on Moses for his sin, claiming that made him lost to God. Satan comes in saying, “Finders keepers, losers weepers” to Jesus (or Michael—whatever you feel like calling Him). And Jesus just rebukes him and it's over. Pearly gates open.

You see, this is Satan’s whole game: “You are lost to God. You now belong to me.” And I don’t know all the rules about when personal judgment happens or at what point we have abandoned God, but I do know that in another 1:9 (1 John), it says “If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness” leaving nothing for anyone to claim. I do know that He says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” in John 1:12-13.

All of us believers are brothers and sisters in Christ and it is our responsibility to claim the promises and power of God for each other when darkness tries to claim us. And it is our job to find the oppressed, broken, hurting, unowned, and bring them into our loving family.

For those who are abandoned by parents, spouses, friends, careers, or maybe even yourself, you are not left as an orphan. There is One who came and found you and claimed you as His own and no one and nothing can take you from His strong hand once you let Him take hold of yours. Finders Keepers.

Brandy Kirstein lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is a lactation consultant at Erlanger Women's East Hospital. Thank Brandy for sharing.

"Keepers" illustration by Joshua De Oliveira. 

KEEPERS is a weekly One project devotional series exploring from a variety of angles the well-known rhetorical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). This phrase expresses a central tension in our community lives. To what extent are we our brothers’ keepers? Even more crucial, to what extent are other people our keepers? Various cultures have different attitudes toward autonomy and interconnectedness, but probably few are as conflicted about the exact definition of community, its boundaries, and its responsibilities as Western culture is. We want help, but hate advice. We value friends, but resent obligations. We enjoy affirmation and seethe at rebuke. We want community, but only when it meets our intensely parsed criteria for what we deem helpful. Don’t you dare look at me and tell me what you think I need, our attitude screams. I’ll tell you what I need and you give it to me. Then you’re my friend. Then we’re a community. And when we offer help, we expect gratitude, maybe even adoration. We like being keepers better than we like being kept, but we’re pretty poor at both. Yet existing in community is essential to our humanity. How can we balance the tensions we experience in positive ways?

SHARE! Do you have a story to share related to the idea of keeping or being kept? Have there been times when other people have been your keeper with surprising results? Have you struggled with determining appropriate boundaries in your relationships with others? If you'd like to write a devotional for the One project Keepers series, email the editor.

And Jesus just rebukes him and it's over. Pearly gates open.Tweet This

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