Lawsuits are a common occurrence in our society today. Many people are quick to sue when they believe their rights have been violated or they have been wronged in some way. However, as Christians, what does the Bible say about lawsuits? Should we be so quick to take our fellow man to court?
In this comprehensive blog post, we will examine several key Bible passages that provide insight into God’s perspective on lawsuits between believers. We will look at both the Old and New Testament teachings on this topic.
Overall, the Scriptures discourage lawsuits between Christians and provide guidelines for handling disputes and offenses within the church. Lawsuits between believers are viewed as evidence of a lack of love and trust within the body of Christ.
That said, the Bible does not forbid all lawsuits in every situation. There are some circumstances where legal action may be necessary or permitted, particularly when dealing with nonbelievers. However, even then, Scripture encourages caution, patience, forgiveness, and pursuit of reconciliation.
- Lawsuits between believers are strongly discouraged in Scripture
- Christians are called to handle disputes within the church, not in civil court
- Forgiveness and reconciliation should be pursued over legal action
- Caution and discernment is needed when considering any lawsuit
- Lawsuits are permitted in some situations, particularly with nonbelievers
- Scripture encourages patience, wisdom, and trusting God rather than lawsuits
Now, let’s explore what the Bible says in more detail…
- Old Testament Teachings
- New Testament Teachings
- Conclusion: Key Principles on Lawsuits
Old Testament Teachings
Although the Old Testament nation of Israel had a civil justice system set up by God, there is little mention of individual lawsuits between the people of God. However, a few principles can be derived from Old Testament laws and writings that provide insight into God’s perspective on legal disputes.
Avoid Going to Court Against Another Israelite
In Deuteronomy 1, as Moses is recounting the Israelites’ wilderness journey, he refers to his establishment of judges to settle disputes between the people:
“So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials. And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.’” (Deuteronomy 1:15-17)
Here we see that Moses appointed judges to hear cases and disputes between the Israelites, so they could be settled within the community rather than escalating to a lawsuit. This reflects the principle that it is generally wise to handle disputes between God’s people internally rather than exposing matters before unbelievers in court.
Allow Matters to Be Settled by Wise Community Leaders
In Deuteronomy 25, God provides regulations for dealing with disputes between Israelites. If there was a dispute between two parties, they were to bring the matter before judges for a verdict:
“If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity. If people have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12, 1)
This passage promotes the principle of allowing disputes to be settled by wise leaders in the community, rather than resorting to vigilante justice or brawling. Even if someone is clearly wronged, it is wise to pursue justice through proper channels.
Avoid Frivolous Lawsuits
In the book of Proverbs, there are warnings against being quick to take someone to court or bringing frivolous charges against others:
“Do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?” (Proverbs 25:8)
“A man who creates strife and discord among brothers endangers himself.” (Proverbs 6:19)
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17)
These verses promote careful consideration and caution before accusing someone in court. Frivolous lawsuits and charges made in haste can end up backfiring. It is wise to hear both sides and seek the truth before making judgments.
Overall, the principles found in the Old Testament seem to discourage lawsuits between God’s people and promote handling disputes within the community through wise leaders. Caution and objectivity is encouraged over hasty litigation. However, clear standards are given for the justice system to punish the guilty and uphold righteousness in the nation.
New Testament Teachings
The New Testament provides the clearest guidelines for Christians regarding lawsuits. Jesus and the apostles specifically address how believers should handle disputes and offenses.
Settle Matters Privately Within the Church
Jesus gave clear instructions for handling disputes between believers in Matthew 18:15-17:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)
Here we see the principle of addressing issues privately first by going directly to the person who has wronged you. This prevents unnecessary escalation and gives them a chance to repent. If they refuse to listen after private rebuke, the next step is to bring one or two witnesses to establish the facts and make an appeal. Only after these initial attempts at reconciliation have failed is the matter to be brought before the church leadership. Even then, the goal is repentance and restoration of relationship, not legal punishment.
The apostle Paul echoes these instructions in 1 Corinthians 6 when reprimanding believers who were taking their disputes before secular courts:
“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?” (1 Corinthians 6:1-5)
Paul is shocked that believers would air their grievances in secular courts rather than handling matters privately within the church. He scolds them for this lack of wisdom and exhorts them to seek out wise Christians to help arbitrate and settle disputes. The clear priority is to handle conflict resolution within the body of Christ.
Focus on Reconciliation Rather than Retribution
Believers involved in a dispute are encouraged to have a spirit of patience, forgiveness, and seeking reconciliation. The goal should be restoration of relationship over getting retribution or punishment.
For example, Jesus taught the following regarding being wronged:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)
Rather than strictly demanding justice or retaliation when wronged, Jesus calls believers to a higher standard of forgiveness, mercy, and turning the other cheek. This applies to handling any dispute within the body of Christ.
The apostle Paul exhorts believers:
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:19-21)
Here we are called to trust God to take care of justice and not take vengeance into our own hands. Even if someone has deeply wronged us, we are called to love them through good deeds, allowing God to convict their conscience. This applies to dealing with any adversaries, including fellow believers with whom we have a dispute.
Look Out for the Interests of Others
The New Testament writers repeatedly call believers to look out for the needs and interests of others, rather than being selfishly motivated in disputes.
Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
1 Corinthians 10:24 also exhorts, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”
If this spirit of selfless care and concern is present between believers, it reduces the likelihood of escalated conflict and lawsuits. Focusing on others’ interests rather than demanding our perceived rights helps foster unity and reconciliation.
Trust God Rather than Seeking Legal Vindication
At the heart of many disputes between Christians is a lack of trust in God to vindicate, provide for, protect, and care for His children. We often resort to lawsuits because we feel we must achieve justice ourselves rather than entrusting our cause to the Lord.
However, Scripture calls believers to trust God even when facing wrongs and injustice.
1 Peter 2:23 says of Jesus, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” This is to be our example when facing unfair treatment.
The apostle Paul writes of enduring persecution and hardships: “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake…So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). His focus was on God’s eternal purposes rather than present vindication.
Psalm 37:5-6 exhorts, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” This call to trust God rather than demanding our rights pervades the New Testament writings for believers navigating all of life’s difficulties.
Conclusion: Key Principles on Lawsuits
In summary, while the Bible does not universally condemn all legal disputes, Scripture provides wisdom and priorities for how believers should approach lawsuits. Here are some key principles found in both Old and New Testaments regarding lawsuits between Christians:
- Settle matters privately within the church when possible – All efforts should be made to handle grievances directly between parties or within church leadership before escalating to outside authorities.
- Focus on reconciliation rather than retribution – Even when wronged, believers should have a heart of patience, mercy, and forgiveness toward a repentant person, with the goal being restored relationship over punishment.
- Avoid frivolous lawsuits – Christians need wisdom and objectivity when considering legal charges, which should never be made rashly or vindictively.
- Look out for interests of others over self – Selfless care and concern for others in the body of Christ should guide our actions over demanding perceived personal rights.
- Trust God rather than seek legal vindication – When wronged as believers, we are called to entrust justice to God rather than demand vindication through worldly authorities.
- Lawsuits permitted with unbelievers if necessary – Scripture allows for use of civil justice system when dealing with non-Christians who refuse to settle a matter privately.
While lawsuits between believers should generally be avoided, Scripture does permit legal action in certain circumstances, particularly when taken against non-Christians. However, even then believers are called to have wise discernment and proper motives focused on justice and restoration over personal retribution. Within the body of Christ, reconciliation should nearly always be pursued over lawsuits.
As we navigate disputes and offenses in this fallen world, Christians must seek God’s wisdom and grace to apply these principles from Scripture. Examining what the Bible teaches provides practical guidance for handling lawsuits in a godly manner. By operating under God’s eternal principles rather than worldly thinking, believers can be peacemakers and shine as lights for Christ even in the midst of conflict.