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Judge Judy, and Executioner

Wisdom in loving your enemies

Proverbs 24:13-14

28 Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause,
For would you deceive with your lips?

29 Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me;
I will render to the man according to his work.”

Proverbs 30:5

5 Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.–Proverbs 30:5


Have you been a victim of “road rage?” Are you known to drive aggressively from time to time in order to make a point to a slower driver that they need to move out of the fast lane? If you can say no to both of these, then you are probably a very safe and courteous driver. However, have you ever felt a bit of satisfying smugness when you pass a driver, who moments before rudely cut you off in traffic, and now finds themselves trapped in a slow lane behind a plodding dump truck?

Well, you are certainly not alone. It is difficult to resist the urge to seek revenge when you have been wronged, or perceive to be. When you are hurt, you feel the  need to identify the source of pain, and take action against it—even if it is a person. 

You feel powerless, and need to feel powerful. You feel weak and need to feel strong. You are vulnerable, and need to be secure. Feeling the need to get revenge is a normal response to being hurt at the hands of others. In your need to control the situation, you can overstep and become “judge, jury and executioner.” 

Or, “Judge Judy and executioner,” as Nick Frost’s naive and silly police officer Danny blurts out, confusing this phrase with TV’s “Judge Judy.” (Danny is trying to come to grips with the fact that his police-chief father is part of a cabal of murderous citizens who have taken justice into their own hands in the 2007 offbeat-comedy movie Hot Fuzz.)

Speaking of movies, Steven Spielberg, has been considered by many to be the greatest living film director. Long before he brought such hits as Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, E.T.: the Extra Terrestrial, and Jaws to the big screen, he directed a made-for-TV movie titled Duel. In 1971, the 23-year-old Spielberg was practically unknown and the studio took a chance on him that paid off in a big way.

Duel is a story of “road rage” that goes from bad to worse. On a remote desert highway, a traveling salesman (played by Dennis Weaver) encounters a menacing 18-wheeler truck. Through a series of seemingly innocent interactions, the truck driver (who remains unseen throughout the film) decides to torment the salesman. His weapon is the hulking 1955 Peterbilt 281 tanker truck, in which he pursues the hapless salesman in an ordinary 1969 Plymouth Valiant.

Using creative camera angles, the loud noise of the menacing truck, and very little dialogue, Duel creates a feeling of terror of the unknown. The “face” of the normal front lights and grill of the monstrous truck give the viewer the sense that the truck itself is the antagonist. In the final (and very satisfying scene) the truck is destroyed in a spectacular, steel-twisting crash, and even seems to give an angry roar as it plummets into a ravine.

The movie’s success put Steven Spielberg on the map. Duel is a story to which nearly every viewer can relate—especially the feeling at the end when the “angry” truck gets its fiery comeuppance. 

Solomon knows this feeling well, despite the fact that he will never have the opportunity to drive a Plymouth. The urge to seek revenge, or pursue vigilante justice is part of your heart’s fallen nature. When you have been wronged, you want to immediately know why and by whom. This is so you can take action to “fix” the problem by seeking justice—by some authority, or even by your own hand.

In chapter 24, Solomon seeks to teach the young people of Israel the folly of seeking revenge for a personal wrong. He begins in a seemingly roundabout way in verse 28:

28 Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause,
For would you deceive with your lips?–Proverbs 24:28

Verses 28 and 29 seem to be conveying two separate idea. Verse 28 is clearly describing a violation of the Ninth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Verse 29 will take a completely different idea, as it seems to be a prototype of Jesus’s “Golden Rule” in Matthew 5, but as we look at them both you will see their beautiful connection. 

Verse 28 describes an abuse of the legal system. “Bearing false witness” is more than simply lying, it is taking an active part in harming another person. Solomon states here that this is being done “without cause.” But connected with verse 29, it implies that you are trying to incriminate someone in order to seek revenge.

Why would you do such a thing? Solomon even asks this rhetorically in the second verset. “Would you” implies a negative answer, almost like he is suggesting something too horrible to contemplate—and yet perhaps you have.

It is very tempting to chime in when someone is complaining about a mutual offender. You hear of a friend complaining about someone you know who has also harmed you in the past. It is easy to join the conversation with your own account of misery and abuse at that person’s hand.

This is understandable, but do you have your facts 100% accurate? It is easy to embellish and add to the pain of years or the passage of time. You may feel you are completely in the right, but the margin for error is great—and so is the potential harm to that person, and yourself. 

The passage of time means that a past wrong is just that: in the past. To add to it, or re-open old wounds, no matter how grievous, will serve no purpose other than to make the pain fresh again and prolong healing. 

This does not seem fair, you may think, Solomon makes a good point, but he doesn’t know the depth of MY pain, and MY hurt. That is true…but God knows. Look further at verse 29:

29 Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me;
I will render to the man according to his work.”–Proverbs 24:29

When you have been wronged, you want justice and when that is not forthcoming, the desire to take justice into your own hands becomes almost unbearable. You do this in direct and indirect ways. Because this person has hurt you, getting revenge can feel like more than the only action you can take—it can feel like a righteous action.

The most common direct response is to gossip or slander someone. Dropping a hint or making an innuendo can be done as a “warning” to others about this person, or more insidiously, as a “prayer request.”

An indirect way of doing this is to be continually digging up the past to remind someone of the hurt they have caused. You can treat them differently than others because they have “need to earn your trust,” or you can hold them to a different standard than other people. In one way, you are simply protecting yourself—but in another way you are keeping the pain fresh, and punishing them in little, cutting ways. 

Christ teaches you to handle things in a completely different way. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus puts the principle of this proverb in a different way:

39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.–Matthew 5:39

This is His “Golden Rule” and it is an echo of God’s law in Leviticus 19:18 and Exodus 21:22-25. In Matthew 5, Jesus is expounding on the full, or real, meaning of the law. Known as the lex talionis, the principle of “an eye for an eye,” it was a principle to guide judges, not an instruction for personal behavior. 

The purpose behind the law to limit, andto restrain retaliation, but Jesus knows how tempting it is for us to abuse it. Instead, He says to “turn the other cheelk. In other words, He is saying: “Do not stand on your legal rights as a Christian and bleed this law and others for all they are worth”

Revivalist preacher Jonathan Edwards, a tremendous puritan light during the Great Awakening, was wrongfully accused in his church, and was ultimately fired. Through it all, he refused to defend himself, to the frustration of his friends. Edwards writes this testimony in his beautiful work, “Charity and its Fruits:”

“Because we ought meekly to bear not only a small injury, but also a good deal of injurious treatment from others. We should persevere, and continue in a quiet frame, without ceasing still to love our neighbor, not only when he injures us a little, but when he injures us much, and…for a long time.” – Jonathan Edwards, “Charity and its Fruits”

Edwards was eventually exonerated, but not before suffering greatly. 

You and I feel that when we become Christians, because we follow Christ and seek to live like Him—to do good in this life—that we should be free of pain. You feel that this should especially apply to the pain caused by other people in your life. Jesus is calling you to fill a tall order: to have faith that your Heavenly Father is in control. To have the same faith that He showed in the garden as he desperately prayed for His Father to “take this cup” from Him—the cup of bitter death on the cross.

Because Christ died for you, you must die to sinful yourself every day, even that part of your sinful self that wants to see your wrongs righted and your enemies punished. 

Since this proverb—and Jesus’s “Golden Rule”—is a reflection on the Ninth Commandment, it is good to remember that with every commandment that contains a prohibition (do not murder, do not commit adultery), there is a corresponding command to act positively. 

Instead of succumbing to the temptation to lie or bring harm to another, you can instead live as Christ to speak the truth, and seek the best, even for your worst enemy.  

What does this look like? Perhaps it is a kind word, when he or she expects nothing but well-deserved vindictiveness. Maybe it is refraining from joining in a gossip session, and instead sharing something sincerely nice about the person in question. 

To truly fulfill the Ninth Commandment, and reflect the wisdom of this proverb, you must actually wish your neighbor well—even if he is your enemy. One way to do this is to make your words healing words. For God is a a God of “pure” words, as Solomon instructs in another wise proverb: 

5 Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.–Proverbs 30:5

Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung suggests that this means prizing truth above all else.

Whether we are dealing with our enemies or our friends, the words of a christian should always defend the truth. “Too many of us delight in poisoned sweetness,” as Calvin puts it.–DeYoung

Can you defend the truth, even if it means defending your enemy? Christ defended you from death and the devil on the cross, and He defends you still today as He intercedes with the Father on your behalf. Pray! Pray today for the strength to speak the truth in love, and to rest in God’s justice in His own time, for He loves you so. 



The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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