Articles

Articles

Justice for All

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“You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.” (Lev. 19:15)

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The warning not to "honor the person of the mighty"--that is, show favoritism to the rich and powerful--has ample historical precedent. The well-heeled have always had the resources to bend the rule of law in their favor through bribery, threats, or other means of leveraging their influence. Justice has often been trampled by those who have the wherewithal to do so.  

But notice what precedes that injunction: "You shall not be partial to the poor." When administering justice, do not extend special privilege to the poor. Do not acquit wrongdoing on the basis of poverty or hardship. Wrong is wrong and must be treated as such, no matter the status of the offender. 

In our modern therapeutic culture, that sounds harsh. We've been conditioned to believe that the poor deserve special advantages over the rich, even to the point of indulging their lawlessness. In God's view, that, too, is a trampling of justice, a recipe for social disaster.   
Justice is for everyone, regardless of class, race, or, connections, or there is no justice for anyone.

That is not a threat; it’s a definition. Justice is the application of a transcendent law to everyone who lives under it. When exceptions are granted based on superficial identity factors, the law becomes impotent and “justice” turns into a naked power grab. Whichever tribe can seize and hold power gets to impose its will on everyone else. That’s how wars start. 

That’s why the Bible and every successful system of jurisprudence in history insist on impartiality in rendering judgment. For people to respect the law, they have to know that they will be treated fairly by those administering the law. When people sense that the system is rigged in favor of a privileged group, whatever the favored attribute, respect for the law is diminished and anarchy is not far behind. 

This does not preclude the role of mercy in administering justice. Mitigating circumstances might lead a judge to temper the punishment inflicted on a poor person for a crime committed. But what a judge dare not do is dismiss an indictment based solely on the perpetrator's social status or group identity. Such a policy would signal to a whole class of people that the law does not apply to them, and they can do whatever they want. Chaos would erupt. 

"In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor," whatever his place in society. A nation that forgets that bedrock principle will not long survive. 

--David