By Alan Turner
“The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17,NKJV)
The underlying observation of this proverb is that one-sided statements, what the first person says, may not be reliable. We should therefore demonstrate wisdom, critically evaluate what has been said and even ask questions or seek evidence. Indeed this is the basis of our Court system. The claim of the complainant must be proven by evidence, and any statement of the defendant must also be backed up by evidence. It goes even further in that the statements of witnesses need to be validated or corroborated by those of others. Pilate knew that he could not just accept the words of the Priests when hearing the charges against Jesus and cross examined Him personally, “You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; Luke 23:14
We are frequently weak in the way that we accept news. What we read is authenticated in our minds because it is printed on paper, what we see on TV because it is spoken by a TV reporter, what we hear on radio because we consider the station and the journalist have a reliable reputation. Often it is because the news is attributed in some way to a prominent public figure. The result is that we believe without proof and without corroboration; we are open to fake truth! Often we are just plain lazy in our thinking. What happens when we hear a second story that differs from the first? The answer to that question may well separate the wise from the foolish.
The common reaction is to take the side of the first person to speak in any dispute or debate as their story seems plausible, and the same follows when listening to or reading any report or claim whether or not it is the truth. This is why conspiracy theories thrive – there is no process of cross examination unless we choose to do it. So, following the court system we should cross examine the claims that are made and look for bias or falsehood. Remember what I said in relation to Proverbs 13:2, 3 a few days ago, “God gave each of us two eyes and two ears so that we may see much and hear much ....”. Two eyes so that we can see both sides of an issue and two ears so that we can hear both sides before we make any judgements.
We need to remember that he that speaks first will be sure to tell a believable story, and relate only that which puts him in a good light, and puts the best view of events so that his case will appear good, whether it really is or not.
This proverb teaches that each party has equal status and right to be heard, but also instructs the listener not only to hear both sides of an argument but to demand direct cross-examination (or other enquiry) before coming to a decision,.” If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. and the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 19:16-19).
The rules were tougher on Old Testament times. Perhaps they should be now.
Remember that we live in a post truth society. Our secular society now holds to the idea that truth is what someone feels is true, not what can be proven by evidence; that we can each hold differing views of what is “truth”. Either we can take the trouble to validate what we see and hear, or we can choose to live a life of foolishness and allow others to manipulate us by the deceptiveness of what they tell us or show us. This is the strategy of the enemy! We need truth if we are to prosper.
With this principle in mind, it is important that we argue for and defend our faith and the Bible in a way that can stand the examination of others. Giving arguments that sound convincing but can be easily exposed or answered by an adversary does not help us in our role of advancing God’s kingdom.