Have you met a wise thief or swindler? Do you know someone who cheated the government of owed taxes? Most foolish people think they are getting away with their sins, but they usually get caught. So, what does Jesus say to do with a thief when caught in their sinful scheme? Many people followed Jesus because He did great miracles. Jesus knew that many of those listening to His first sermon could be thieves or did not pay back what they owed or wronged someone. He gives the instruction to make it right with the person you wronged. Matthew 5:25-26 states, “Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
God knew we would need a court system because there were going to be disputes between people, so when the Israelites were wandering around the desert, He set up levels of judges to hear their cases, just like we have today. Moses tells the tribal leaders the following in Deuteronomy 1:17; “You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’”
The Bible discourages us from going to court.
My husband wanted a few trees cut down and a cherry limb. One tree was a huge Maple close to the house that was rotting at the base. The arborist gave us a price for the Maple and the cherry limb together. It took the man six months to get the maple cut down and cut the cherry limb. We paid him what he charged us. Then we get another bill a month later for trimming a tree he did not do. He insisted he did the work, and we owe him the money, which was over $700.00. He also was a brother in the Lord and a pastor at one time. The man had a reputation for not being honest. In Proverbs 25:9-10, King Solomon explains, “Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret, lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end.”
We appealed to him first to see if he mistakenly sent us the bill. He insisted he did the work. We tried to reason with the man, but he slandered us to our mutual Christian friends for not paying this bill. He tried to ruin our reputation, but in fact, his reputation came into question. Then my husband went to church leadership and appealed to them, and they agreed to meet to discuss the discrepancy. My husband sent them all the email exchanges of what we agreed upon to prepare for the meeting. COVID hit and the in-person meeting never happened. In Proverbs 18:17, Solomon says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” We presented the evidence of what we agreed upon and the work he charged us for. He dropped his charge against us because we proved our case to the church leadership, and now his reputation was in question.
The Bible explains the proper way to deal with someone who has sinned against you. Matthew 18:15-17 states, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Also, Christians should not be involved in lawsuits against believers.
1 Corinthians 6:1-10 explains, “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?
2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?
3Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
4So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?
5I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?
7To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
8But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
We cannot hide our sins from God. Exodus 22:9 states, “For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.” If my husband and I were trying to get out of paying what we owed the man and the church leaders said we owed him, then we would have to pay up, and maybe twice as much. This verse was for the Israelites, but we still should follow the principles laid out by God.
The man who tried to swindle us for work he did not do is currently serving time in prison for child rape charges of his grandchild, which he denies, but a jury found him guilty. He has deceived another brother in the Lord into paying his legal fees and even appealing the verdict. Usually, if a Christian has a sin problem in one area, they almost always have sin problems in other areas of their life. Pride will always be the center of every sin issue. Pride keeps a person from repentance and opens the door to demonic deception and enticement.
People with pride issues will have no problems lying or stealing, but God knows every wicked thought and way. Psalm 139:1b-4 explains, “You have searched me and known me! 2You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.”
CHALLENGE: Do you want to be wise? Seek God to show you if a spirit of pride controls your thoughts because the devil might tempt you to think, “What they did is wrong. I am going to take them to court.” I regularly root out the sin of pride in my life, so that other sins do not rule my mind. Always best to obey Jesus’s instructions.
May God bless you richly.
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