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Justice—God’s Way or Man’s?

“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

Ecclesiastes 8:11

“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

Judges 21:25

God Man

You choose Circumstances decide

You are to blame Others are to blame

You are a sinner You are a victim

You are guilty You are sick

You must change (repent) Someone must fix you

You deserve punishment You deserve a reward

Murderers, rapists and pedophiles are being released from prison. Protesters have been rewarded for looting, destroying property, and attacking policemen. Everyone and everything is to blame except the criminals. They are being used as an army to overthrow civilization. Like countless cultures before us, we are reliving the days in Israel when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Men have cried out for justice for thousands of years, but they usually want it on their terms. Cain murdered his brother and yet he complained that his punishment from God was not fair (Gen. 4:13). Ahab blamed Elijah for the trouble he himself had caused (1 Kings 18:17-18). Today when we ask “What is right?” The answer is “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes” (Prov. 21:2).

Things have taken a strange turn in the justice system. Generations ago that system was based on the moral law of God. Without recognition of that standard, there can be no real right and wrong or true justice. If man makes moral rules instead of God, then anything goes. Lawmakers and judges once understood this. They also realized that doing wrong deserves to be punished. We call this retribution. It is a biblical principle. There are some sins that are “deserving of death” (Deut. 21:22; Acts 25:11). Determining and reforming criminals is secondary to this purpose and loses any real meaning without it. This was the prevailing view of discipline, correction, and social justice in the earlier days of this country.

Well over a hundred years ago this thinking began to give way to a new theory of human nature. Evolution taught us that we are just animals. Psychologists insisted that, like animals, we must be trained. That meant criminals were the unfortunate victims of circumstance. The experts told us that we must not punish criminals but simply change their environment and recondition them by state-approved behavior modification and mental programming.The punitive purpose of courts faded and in many cases has disappeared.

It seems that we have entered an even more extreme phase of this train of thought. Now even the idea of rehabilitating criminals in prison is seen as unfair. Now law enforcement officials are expected to counsel rather that restrain lawbreakers. Now we must let criminals roam the streets because, after all, we made them what they are so we should all share the blame and change the environment that produced them. The liberal message is clear: criminals need therapy, not punishment. Judges should prescribe treatments, not deliver sentences. We should not call prison a “Department of Corrections” but a “House of Counseling.” In fact, we should do away with arrests and prisons altogether.

Solomon warned against this foolishness 3,000 years ago. Our society is more dangerous because we have ignored his advice. Unless we see major changes, the situation is bound to get worse.


West End church of Christ Bulletin article for January 15, 2023


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