A Most Troubling (And Common) Ethical Dilemma: A Ten Commandments Tale

you are a charitable organization or institution, and a big donor is…a crook.

“effective altruism” as a concept was dealt a heavy blow with the recent dealings of ftx official mr. sam bankman-fried. he, if the allegations are true, is the bernie madoff of his generation. it is also reported that he generously donated money. now, recipients of these donations must wonder whether the monies received may have been the proceeds of a crime. the monies donated may have been stolen from others. the victims may have a claim for the money. with this hypothetical, we embark on a discussion of statute, interpretation and commentary.

prior to mr. bankman-fried, over the years, there have been other individuals who also donated ill gotten proceeds to charity. these individuals, as well, were either accused of wrongdoing or convicted of wrongdoing. charities are confronted with the ethical issues relating to such donations.

to address the issue, i do so with a contemporary law analysis versus jewish law. thus, we have many questions to ask such as whether “stolen property can somehow be converted to non-stolen property? ” for instance, a thief robs a bank. during his getaway, he stops off at a gas station and uses some of the stolen money to purchase gas. query: is the gas station owner somehow obligated to return the stolen money? query: a criminal donates money to a charity, the charity uses the money to pay salaries and overhead costs before discovering that the money was stolen. is the charity obligated to return the stolen money? query: the charity, before spending the money from the criminal, finds out about the nature of the money. should they keep the money or return it?

with the complexity of the situation, one can see that a commandment prohibiting theft may give rise to many legal, moral and ethical questions. these questions need to be raised and debated. guidance is necessary to have an appropriate answer.

thus, with the creation of law came the need to create commentary. as a lawyer, we often spend decades litigating the interpretation of statutes. these interpretations create commentary. commentary creates guidance.

the torah’s creation inevitably created the need for both interpretation and commentary. the best, brightest, most scholarly were then needed to create such texts. in judaism, this was done through the oral law which includes the talmud and mishnah.

in sum, moral, ethical and legal dilemmas challenge all generations of humanity. while cryptocurrency that mr. bankman-fried was involved with, did not exist at the time that the ten commandments were provided humanity, the statute prohibiting theft, however, was, at that time, codified as an eternal law. thus, it is up to great legal scholars, moralists, religious figures to address the controversy. this matter is especially troubling as a number of these individuals who will opine on these matters are connected to institutions that rely upon donations.

with this, i invite you to provide your thoughts in the commentary section on this issue.

be well!!

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Published by biblelifestudies

I am a practicing lawyer and long term admirer of the bible

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