Read Proverbs 18:13-24
I am not so sure I want to talk about lawsuits. There is surely one to come out of the Zimmerman case. I am not so sure that I want that being the center of the media attention any longer.
This case seemed to be a springboard for anyone who had been sitting on an opinion on anything and needed to air it out. We should be thankful that a handful of people were willing to listen to testimony and view evidence over several weeks and do the best they could as the jury.
I have been a part of several courts martial. I have sent Marines to Court Martial. I have presided over a court martial—the equivalent of the foreman of the jury. I have been a member of a court martial, that is a jury member. I have also been prosecutor, defense, and judge at the same time in this unique form of military justice called the summary court martial.
Out of all of these various judicial experiences, I can attest to one thing. You don’t know anything until you listen to everything, and even then it is seldom clear cut.
The proverbs says:
To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame.
Unfortunately, we are a culture that does a lot of answering before listening. We spout our opinions quickly seldom listening to what others have to say.
Because we have the answer. We have become a very myopic culture where we only see things our way.
When it comes to high profile media cases, our rigid viewpoints often have little effect on the outcome of the controversy; but they do impact something more important.
This whole business of answering before listening is counterproductive to parenting. We are susceptible to projecting.
That is, we know what our life experience was, so when our children encounter something that looks familiar, we are ready to spout off the solution to the problem without having to bother with listening to our children. That’s projecting.
How could their life experience be any different than our own?
How? Think back to our own childhoods. Our life experience was not an exact match for our parents, and so neither do our children follow the same pattern as we did.
That doesn’t mean that we discount our own life experience. It means that we listen and then wisely apply our experience to the current situation.
Back to cases and controversies:
There are tens of thousands of other crimes and trials and lawsuits that have not been plastered in our faces by the media over the past year or so. And there have always been attempts to dispense some sort of justice for as long as humankind has attempted to do what is right or fair or necessary.
The law that God gave to Moses provided an eye for an eye as a means of bringing civility to the law. Before, if someone wronged your or killed one of your relatives; you responded by doing as much harm as your could to them and their families. An eye for an eye said, people are not ready to fully trust that God will dispense justice so in the mean time, let’s put some limits on retaliation.
The proverb says:
In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right,
until someone comes forward and cross-examines.
Why is this in biblical wisdom?
Because we as people strain a lot of muscles by jumping to conclusions. This is a follow on to be careful what you say and be careful what you listen to.
This says that even in a formal proceeding, there are going to be many sides to a story. The proverb doesn’t say which one is right. It admonishes us to consider all factors—not to jump to conclusions.
People are addicted to controversy.
The proverbs have two main characters: Lady Wisdom and the Fool. The counsel is to always follow the model of Lady Wisdom. She does not jump to conclusions just as elsewhere we have seen that she does not jump to put up a surety for a stranger.
The next verse adds an interesting perspective.
Casting the lot settles disputes
and keeps strong opponents apart.
Not everything needs to be resolved by who has the best argument. Sometimes, just cast the lot and see who is favored. This is especially important for those with a lot of resources.
It keeps them from draining their resources on trivial matters.
Consider the possession arrow in college basketball. Once upon a time every time two players tied for possession of the ball, it required a contested jump ball to be put into play. Two players took their positions in and around one of the 3 jump circles on the court while the rest of the team jockeyed for position so as best to retrieve the tip. Positioning varied based upon the likelihood that your player would control the tip. The official being satisfied that everyone was set, lofted the ball between the two players. Today the possession arrow just goes back and forth and the game moves on.
We don’t have to contest everything. We don’t have to be competitive all the time. We don’t have to do a cost-benefit analysis on every little decision.
Jesus told us if we have a dispute with another, we are wise to settle it on the way to court because you never know what the outcome will be. Things do not always go in your favor even though from your perspective there can be no other perspective.
But often there is.
So let’s learn to listen before we judge. We might say, let us properly diagnose before we prescribe.
Let us be careful not to project our life experience upon every situation and circumstance; instead, let us apply wisdom—much of it gained from life experience—after considering all factors.
Let’s not make every discussion an argument.
Being judgmental is easy—very easy.
The responsibility of being a judge is difficult, requires much wisdom and deliberation, and requires that your feet be nailed to the floor so you don’t accidentally jump to conclusions.
We as God’s people need to be the best on the planet at listening.
Let’s learn to listen and understand and stop jumping to conclusions.