You can’t just flip a coin! – 12/15/2017

Two brothers (we’ll call them Dizzy and Daffy) inherited an old, run-down house.  Some of their deceased parents’ belongings were worth selling and there were a few pieces of furniture and other sentimental items worth removing.  The basement, however, was filled with junk and clutter that would be awkward to dispose of.

Months drifted by and no effort to sell the house was made.  The insurance bill came due.  Dizzy was incensed that the premium was so high.  He was convinced that the insurance company had been taking advantage of his parents.  Dizzy called the agent and chewed him out.  Then he went ahead and paid the bill.

Blog 109 image - old house burningBoth Dizzy and Daffy removed their favorite items over the course of several trips.  They both lived a few hundred miles away.  They eventually held an auction and got a few thousand bucks out of the house’s contents.  But the basement was still filled with junk – which included lots of boxes of such things as old clothes.

Six days later the house burned down.  The insurance company affirmed it was a total loss.  A state fire marshal and a private investigator hired by the insurance company declared that the fire was arson.

Dizzy claimed the full replacement value on the policy – plus a few grand for the the contents.  But he repeatedly declined to provide an inventory of those contents.  Dizzy and Daffy both made some strange and misleading comments during this period.  It also turned out that Daffy had been in town until about the time the fire had been set.

The insurance company refused the claim.  Dizzy and Daffy hired a lawyer and sued.  I got called for jury duty and had the privilege of hearing and judging the facts of the case.

The Bible has a lot to say about judgment.  In addition to the Final Judgment, there is considerable wisdom regarding the day-to-day discourse between folks and, particularly, between folks and their rulers.  Of the latter two categories, the Lord Jesus had this to say in His sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:1-5):

Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

In what ways are we to avoid judging someone else?  This passage plus the context of the rest of the Bible gives us a number of answers:

  1. Don’t try to judge the motivations of the heart – that’s God’s province.
  2. Don’t stereotype an individual based on one event.
  3. Don’t presume that his sin is somehow ‘bigger’ than yours.
  4. Don’t make your opinion or choice of style into a ‘law’ that others should obey.
  5. Don’t think or act in a spirit of revenge.
  6. Don’t foment hate in your heart.
  7. Don’t gossip or otherwise speak evil of others.
  8. Don’t judge hypocritically.
  9. Do judge properly, discerningly, righteously.
  10. Do judge so you can be helpful.
  11. Don’t forget God’s mercy on YOUR OWN miserable life!

It is interesting that God cautions us that we can expect to be judged by others at least to the standard by which we judge others.  In fact, this is the system of laws and judicial processes by which Americans live together.  We depend on our Constitution and a system of laws to protect us from the whims and self-centered judgments characteristic of despotic forms of government.  It is tragic to observe the degradation of these historic American virtues today, as government agencies are used to target political opponents and as establishment politicians violate laws with impunity, protected by their powerful peers.

Blog 109 image - beam in the eyeIn the civil case of Dizzy and Daffy vs. the Large Insurance Company, I was interested to observe all the sour expressions in the jury pool and, especially, the grumpy looks on those who were selected for the jury.  One woman answered attorneys’ questions in a way that clearly indicated she would be biased for one of the parties.  The presiding judge looked disgusted, but had no recourse but to excuse her.

Our judge was very gracious, but firm.  In our presence he directed the bailiff to advise the sheriff to contact everyone who had failed to show up for jury duty.  He said that no-shows would be required to provide him a letter explaining their absence.  If the letter wasn’t satisfactory, a night in jail was likely.  Whew!  I’m glad I set my alarm clock properly.

More significantly, the judge advised the jury pool that our service was a small price of citizenship to pay for the privilege of being an American.  Without a civilized legal system, disputes would likely be settled in favor of whoever can hire the biggest thugs, which is the culture in much of the world.  Sometimes, of course, the biggest and smartest thugs of all rise to political power, even within a constitutional system.  If they do so by ballot, the citizenry gets the government it deserves.  If the people remain docile as the thugs consolidate power and destroy freedom, there is no hope.  Thugs are not just those in political power, of course.  They can dominate major media outlets and take over the faculty of most universities.  Once an anti-Christian / socialist / atheist majority control a university’s faculty – or the teachers’ unions of public schools – it may become impossible for a conservative, not to mention a Bible believer, to get hired.

A good old movie - 12 Angry Men

A good old movie – 12 Angry Men

Extending the Judge’s point . . . Jurors, in effect, become the rulers over a very restricted set of facts and issues affecting a very small group of people.  Their authority is limited, of course.  In addition to the Judge, a systematic appeals process exists to minimize unfairness.  Does it always work perfectly?  No, but you do the best you can.  Ultimately, no matter what the design of your justice system, the achievement of justice depends vitally on the integrity of the people involved.  If too many are ignorant or apathetic or corrupt, we’re in trouble.

A juror – as a judge or a ruler – has a responsibility mandated by God.  Romans chapter 13, verses 1-7, leaves no doubt that God is intimately connected with good government.  I include verse 8 because that principle, if embraced by everyone, would simply do away with the need for a court system.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:  For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.  For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.  Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

Blog 109 image - flip a coinGod does not take kindly to being kicked out of government, as the political left has worked religiously to accomplish, and largely succeeded.  God created government!  Government is an instrument of judgment against criminals.  In civil matters, government provides processes and judges and jurors to settle disputes.  As part of the American system, citizens have responsibilities that must be borne seriously and should be borne graciously.  Under God, you can’t just flip a coin to settle a dispute.  You must judge righteously.  John 7:24 . . .

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

God promises His followers the ability to do just that . . . he that is spiritual judgeth all things.  (1 Corinthians 2:15)  But without an absolute morality, based on the reality of God’s creation and the God-given conscience he has given us, justice is easily missed, or deliberately perverted.  We are able to judge righteous judgment because God has put His law in our inward parts and written it in our hearts . . . Jeremiah 31:33.

Since government derives from God, rulers are subject to God’s judgment.  Psalm 2 describes those rulers who would defy God in attempts to create a godless system of government.  God literally laughs in derision at such temerity and warns the “judges of the earth” to “serve the Lord with fear.”  The alternative is inevitable destruction, which will come fully to pass during the Tribulation . . . which may not be that far away.  King David of Israel received a direct admonition, 2 Samuel 23:3 . . .

The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.

Given a belief in God, it would seem suicidally stupid for a ruler to defy Him.  Such stupidity is typically correlated with oppression.  Proverbs 28:16 . . .

The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor:  but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.

one of Saddam Hussein's palaces

one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces

Godless government is naturally oppressive.  The world’s history teems with examples of despotic rulers given over to covetousness.  Consider Syria or North Korea today, or Saddam Hussein’s wealth before he met his end.  The destruction or starvation or genocide of their own people is of no consequence to them, as long as they can maintain power.  In our own recent history, consider the hundreds of millions of dollars that poured into the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State, plus the hundred million dollars of personal wealth she and Bill amassed from ‘speaking fees.’  But in their worldview, which denies God’s very existence, who is god in their eyes?  They are.  As long as the rulers are comfortable, the sufferings of the oppressed or the end of personal freedom for the ‘little people’ are quite irrelevant.

On the personal scale, when we are called to judge our neighbor as part of our responsibilities of citizenship, we stand in God’s place.  How could we possibly take this lightly?  Someone is watching (Proverbs 17:15):

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.

 Blog 109 image - book clinton cashWhich gets us back to Dizzy and Daffy.  After two days of testimony and arguments, our jury of seven began its deliberations.  Our duty was to render a verdict based on the preponderance of the evidence.  Only a criminal case requires the test of beyond a reasonable doubt.  Circumstantial evidence has weight.  I observed among several jurors a reluctance to believe that Dizzy and Daffy could be so stupid or so wicked as to try to get away with arson and insurance fraud.  After all, these were educated fellows, they dressed nicely, and had good haircuts.  (At least by the time they arrived in the courtroom.)

After two hours of discussion, which often strayed into emotional arguments, all minds were made up.  Five favored the plaintiffs.  I was one of two favoring the impersonal Large Insurance Company.  The Judge had determined that with a jury of seven, however, five-to-two constituted a verdict.  The two of us, at least, were able to convince the five to settle on a reduced monetary figure, closer to the true value of the house, just a fraction of the replacement value.  The brothers never had the slightest intention to rebuild the house, anyway – and that was a policy condition regarding the replacement value.

Was justice done?  I don’t know.  I thought that the preponderance of the evidence indicated arson by Dizzy and Daffy.  But I could be wrong.  Neither the insurance company nor the cops had a ‘smoking gun.’  If they did, there would have been criminal proceedings.  Also, the company representative did not do a good job on the stand.  Neither did Dizzy and Daffy, but I was sure that their professed naivete, confusion, and innocence in the areas of selling houses and comprehending insurance policies was feigned.  They had had years of experience as landlords over a dozen rental properties!

On days like that, I actually can look forward to the Final Judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:14) . . .

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

God has the books ready, for every arsonist, for every corrupt politician, for every academic who scoffs at his student’s faith in God.  Thankfully, I won’t be judged for my own . . . quite often corrupt . . . works.  In trusting my salvation to the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, my sins have been covered up, washed away, cast into the depths of the sea, and my name has been written in the Book of Life.  I hope yours is, too.  I guarantee that you don’t want your book opened, your details on display.



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