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Before You Believe the Worst

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard

This morning while reading Deuteronomy 17, I came across a paragraph about how to deal with idolators in the midst of the people of God. Because God ordered that they must be stoned to death (v. 5), he also ordered a key safeguard put in place:

On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness (v. 6).

This protects the innocent from false accusations by those who may hold a grudge against them. And the witness making the accusation must cast the first stone (v. 7), forcing him to have a personal stake in the outcome. 

Could a group of troublemakers “game” the system by conspiring together to bring false witness against their neighbor? Yes, but the requirement of multiple witnesses (who themselves would be examined by the town elders) provided a hedge against such collusion. Presumably, wise judges would spot the conspiracy and bring it to light.

For the moment, let’s just take one truth and ponder it. Don’t assume the worst about a friend based on just one phone call or one email or one piece of overheard gossip.

Before you believe a bad report, ask some questions. Seek the truth. Don’t pass along bad news just because you “heard it from a friend.”

Evil must be dealt with (v. 7). But do it God’s way. Wait for all the facts to come out. Don’t be quick to believe the worst.

Love believes the best until the best can no longer be believed.

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Originally published May 17, 2011.

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