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The Fairest of Them All

Click here to read Deuteronomy 21 on BibleGateway.com

 “you will have purged from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, since you have done what is right in the eyes of the Lord.” – Deuteronomy 21:9

one couple man and woman Criticism concept

We love to assign blame.  If we are in a car accident, one of the first questions that people will ask (other than if you have retained all of your limbs and most of your vital organs) is “whose fault was it?”  If a team loses a football game, the press conference tends to focus on “who didn’t do their job?”  If someone, hypothetically, doesn’t do the dishes, then begins the epic battle Spousal Blame, in which the number and frequency of dishwashings will be brought into play, and perhaps other unrelated offenses may also make an appearance.

But what if it’s nobody’s fault?  Or at least, what if it’s difficult to determine who is at fault? Shocking, in our world, where it’s expected that if one burns themselves in the crotchular area with hot coffee, someone must be held accountable.  Can we accept the idea that sometimes, it was just an accident? Or that both parties are to blame?

We are so focused on “fair” in our world that we miss the opportunity to just do the right thing, whether it’s our responsibility or not.  If you’re in the grocery store, and you come skipping along the cereal aisle, and you notice some pirate-hatin fool has knocked all of the Captain Crunch on the floor, what do you do? Do you casually walk past the boxes?  Do you nonchalantly turn around and head to a different aisle? Do you mention it to a store employee? Do you stop and pick them all up?  Are you concerned with “fair” (I’m not the one who messed it up) or with “right” (this needs to be cleaned up).

THE MEASURE OF BLAME

The Bible has several passages that address this sort of thing.  In the Deuteronomy 21, we’re given a hypothetical.  A body is found out in the fields one day, and before Briscoe and McCoy get involved, God gives some detailed directions on how to proceed.

Strangely, the first thing is to measure the distance to the nearby towns (though we may wonder exactly how they determined that before GPS), and the closest town is responsible.  Notice that it does not say “determine the cause of death or perpetrator first.”  Notice that it doesn’t matter if everyone knows Town A is populated by nuns and Town B is the headquarters of the Mafia.  If the body is closer to Town A, Town A is responsible.

And not just responsible; they have to make a sacrifice of an entire bull (a considerable financial burden) to atone for the guilt of the town.  They are held to guilty in the death of this stranger, and had to make the payment for the offense, or the whole town would be guilty. Even if they had committed no sin.  Sound familiar?

FAIRLY RIGHTEOUS

Despite our almost pathological need for “fair,” the Bible is almost never concerned with that.  The ultimate example is Christ, taking the blame for sins he never committed.  There is nothing fair about an innocent person being killed (even if you don’t believe the Jesus was sinless, it’s clear from the court proceedings that the Jewish leadership was playing pretty fast and loose with the rules of law).  But that’s not the point.  Jesus did what had to be done, not because it was fair, but because He loves us, and it was the holy thing to do.

Today, as you run into the “unfair” parts of life (and you will), and you find yourself looking to assign blame, stop yourself and prayerfully consider your actions.  What can you do today to be righteous, instead of fair? Can you let that co-worker take credit for your work?  Can you let your spouse go to bed early while you take care of the kids? Can you allow yourself to be taken advantage of by your friends and still love them?

After all, if it was about fair, it should be us hanging on the cross.

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