Today we will see a proverb that gives us wisdom when it comes to hearing the case of someone who is seeking to convince us of something. It is also a day when we will see where our forefathers learned about the wisdom of cross-examination in a court of law. We hear people say that we are a godly nation founded upon biblical principles. I can imagine that the average person would have to think at some point where they could see these biblical principles in black and white. Here in Proverbs 18:17 we see such an example.
This proverb probably was spoken to those who had to deal with legal issues - matters of justice in a community. They were warned that when a court case ensues, there is a normal tendency in all of us to believe the things we are told by someone. This is especially the case when we have someone who is "pleading" their case with us. This is someone who is passionate about what they are saying. It is also someone, at times, who is facing a very real loss of money or even freedom if they lose. In some severe cases it can even be that the one pleading his case may forfeit his life. Therefore we are dealing with someone who will make a very impassioned plea.
If the truth were known (and I guess now it is), I tend to be someone who believes what is said to me. Early in my life as an adult, I was somewhat of an easy target for those who wanted to deceive me or take advantage of me. Growing up with my father I saw a man whose word was his bond. As I got older, I was shocked to learn this was not always the case with people. Therefore needed the wisdom shared here in Proverbs 18:17. I needed to examine the person before me - and not always just accept what they say as the truth.
The fact is that we live in a fallen world - which means that not everyone is honest, forthright, and has integrity. Believe it or not - and I did not at first - some people will lie to your face to steal from you. They intend to deceive you, take your money, take your stuff, and can have a straight face as they weave their lies they tell you in the process.
This is why we need to cross-examine what folks say to us. Please do not take this as a call to be jaded and think everyone is on the take. There are many who I do not even have to question. Their integrity is not suspect. But with someone I do not know - or - someone who has serious character deficits - I need to be wise and ask questions.
I am a pastor - and as such have people who come to ask me for money to help in various situations. Early in ministry I'd get taken about 98% of the time. This was because I'd believe every word they'd say as they "plead" their case with me. Now, I've learned to ask questions. I've also learned to ask for phone numbers and people who can verify their story. This had led to a huge drop in the number of times I've been taken.
God wants us to love people - and be people who tend to believe others. But . . . He also wants us to be wise as serpents as well as innocent as doves. That requires some basic cross-examination of others. We do it in court because we need to have evidence of the truth - not just statements. By doing this the facts in a case become much clearer over time. Does this always insure a perfect outcome? No, but it does at least help us to be wise and understanding about the nature of people - and about how we need to respond to their requests and problems.