The Expository Files


Punishing The Wrong People: “Not Good”

“To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.” Prov. 17:26

There is a sense of justice or fairness we develop from an early age. I see this when my grandchildren stay with us. We recently had seven spending several nights at our house. It is an exercise in little-people management I am ill-qualified for and can only endure a few days. But I always learn something if I pay attention. All of these little children (one with particular vigor) have an inner sense of fairness that causes them to sound off when they believe the adults have not dealt fairly. Usually, this signal goes off when the spokesman for justice believes he or she has been treated unfairly, or is not getting exactly what the others are getting (almost to the point of measuring and weighing the pancakes!). While this sense of justice is not fully developed at these ages, it is unwise for adults to dismiss it. In fact, we want our children to learn fairness and we entertain the highest hope, it will develop in a direction that is virtuous, unselfish and godly.

Throughout the Bible fairness, equality or justice is upheld. There is no guarantee that everybody on the earth will be treated equally, but the ideal is upheld and we are called to be people who encourage and promote justice to the best of our ability.

Terrible inequities are reported in the Bible, but never celebrated. God is perfectly fair, and He expects His people to think, speak and act from a heart that respects Him and seeks to be like Him.

To take this sense of justice into your personal practice: (1) before you react negatively to someone (spouse, child, parent, neighbor, friend, etc.) be certain there is evidence that requires the negative reaction. “Whoever retrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding,” (Prov. 17:27). And remember, “if one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame,” (Prov. 18:13).

(2) Get in the habit of praising good behavior; this will help you conquer any spirit of being impulsively or overly critical (quick on the draw). Love “rejoices in the truth,” and clings to what is good (1 Cor. 13:6, Rom. 12:9). Where praise is deserved, do not hold back or remain silent. Generous encouragement sincerely given to good people will help them maintain their goodness, and will nurture your spirit against the harsh, critical, negative thoughts that accomplish nothing.

Part of our character development must be that in finding the knowledge of God, we also “understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path,” (Prov. 2:9). To punish good people is wrong. Let’s pray and study to avoid that.

By Warren E. Berkley
The Final Page
From Expository Files 17.2; February 2010