There’s a list of laws in the Old Testament regulating matters of justice and mercy that are sadly necessary wherever humans live together.
The very existence of such laws tells us something important about humanity.
When you consider what I am suggesting, ask what it says about us that such laws are necessary.
I realize that the laws listed below were given to guide a particular group of God’s people and (as with the rest of Old Testament law) should not be applied as binding upon all people at all times.
Yet reasonable people will agree that the concerns addressed in the laws are necessary for protecting civil community for all people.
My interest here is why humans need to be told not to do these things. Are we that bad or potentially bad to need such laws?
Laws regulating justice and mercy
- “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.
- “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.
- “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.
- “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.
- “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent.
- “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (from Exodus 23:1-9).
Do we really need to be told not to spread false reports and accept bribes and twist the words of the innocent?
Couldn’t we just believe in some progressive version or utopian vision of humanity? Yes you can choose to believe in such a version but it will only be wishful thinking. We humans have proven over and over again that we cannot live well without a list of “Do not” laws and a significant means to enforce them.
Honest, helpful and hopeful
Don’t misunderstand. I believe in human dignity because we’ve been created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). But honest people know that this is not our whole story.
Any vision of humanity that denies the evil side of every human being is foolish and dangerous. Human dignity and human depravity are the reality for all people in all places at all times.
This way of understanding our “whole story” is one big reason that I follow a Christian worldview. It uniquely offers the most honest and helpful view of both sides of our story.
More importantly, it equally provides the most hopeful vision for a future that restores dignity and removes depravity by redeeming depraved humans like me.