Society: Crime and Punishment.

July 13th, 2009

Leviticus 6:2-5

6:2. "If a person sins and commits a trespass against the Lord by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor,
6:3. "or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins:
6:4. "then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found,
6:5. "or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering.

In this key passage, the key point is in the last two verses. In the first part we have an outline of some finer points of doing things that defraud your fellow man. It contains a nasty mixture of lies, theft, trust, extortion, and other such things. The main point of these few verses is to point out that there are consequences for our actions. Sometimes the punishment for breaking a law are serious, and get the death penalty. Most have a lesser punishment such as this one about lieing and stealing Crime and sin have consequences, and deserves punishment.

We are told of these harsh things because unfortunately, in our society there are some people out there who just don't abide by the ethical and moral teachings of either God's law, or any law. The punishments need to be fair and fit the crime. The punishments also serve to protect the guilty party to a degree. Maybe the person will consider it a wake up call and learn to reform his ways. It should at least be fair based on the extent of the crime that was done. From the victim's point of view, there might be a large amount of emotional sentiment attached to the item lost, or devastation at being violated. The punishment is to regulate the punishment and not punish the guilty person beyond the real weight of the crime.

With that said, God is a forgiving god. His mercy is new each day. We can make a fresh start at any time we choose to return to the lifestyle he wants us to live. That doesn't mean the scars of the past, or the consequences of past deeds don't need to be paid. Some of the scars of our past may never go away. We are forced to live with the results of past decisions, and hopefully use them as reminders to keep from behaving that way anymore.

Punishment might be fair the right thing to do, and what the person deserves. Extending grace to that person is the Godly thing to do. If we each got what we deserve from God, we would all be in trouble.

That doesn't mean to let the person off the hook, but it does mean that when an error in punishment is to be made, err on the side of mercy and grace. God has laws to show that certain behaviors are wrong and describes punishments. Once a punishment is set in motion, be gracious to that person, much as God is to us. It's hard I know. Ask God for his strength to change your heart to his heart. It's natural to take that repayment that the law says is due to you, and show the other person a selfrighteous, hateful, or smug attitude. In crimes where the person is to be hauled off to jail for a while, you probably won't be visiting them, but you might pray that God will work to change them. If they had a family which is now being deprived of a loved one, there are needs there to be met. Again, you may not want to, or be able to to do anything about the situation. The affects of a bad decision are far reaching. You may not even know these people, or ever come in contact with them. You can still pray for them.

Some people will never learn, and continue in a life of sin or crime. They don't always get caught, and the lure of that makes them think there are no consequences. Once man dishes out a punishment or reward, the deed is done and the event sealed. God sees everything, especially the things that people don't. Nothing gets past him. I won't say that we may get away with a lot of sins in this life. We will indeed get away with countless sins of all sizes that nobody knows about, and will never find out. They go unpunished. Those are the ones we need to worry about the most.

Have you ever heard that saying, "God'll get you for that." In this life, even God himself may not punish somebody for terrible things they have done. There's more to it though than what we know in this life. There will be a final judgement day that is reserved to catch all those hidden, unpunished sins. The judgement and sentencing on that day will be final and permanent. All of us are guilty, and have sins that we deserve to have dealt with on that day.

There is some good news. Jesus is the way that God planned from the beginning to blot out those sins. All it takes is to understand who Jesus is as our savior amd believe in him. Let him change our lives, and make the effort to live on this planet in the way God intended us to live.

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