Deuteronomy 19:14-21 – It’s Not Fair! It’s Not Fair!

Posted: February 27, 2017 in 05-Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 19:14-21 (Part 1)

Concern for Justice

It’s not fair! The famous cry of children everywhere when they are punished for bad behavior. Why does my brother only get “x” punishment when I get “y” punishment? It’s not fair! When we were kids, everything that to be equal. We wanted our punishments to be equal. We wanted our gifts to be equal. We even wanted our dinner portions to be equal. Why does he get more spaghetti than me? It’s not fair!


The same was true when I became a parent and step-parent. I was the father of two girls and the step-father of three boys from 1995-2004. When I married the boys’ mother, the boys were 3, 6, and 9 years old and my girls were 5 and 9 years old. Over the next 9 years, child discipline became the bane of my existence. I often wonder what would have happen if each of us had children of each sex instead of all one sex or if I had been the parent of boys and she had been parent of all girls. Would things have been different? Who knows? However, the reality of the situation was that I had the girls and she had the boys. If you have ever had any boy children and any girl children, you realize that all of the talk about the equality of the sexes is just a created belief. I am not saying that women and men cannot do the same jobs or receive the same pay (if experience and skill sets are the same). I am just saying that we are wired differently by God to serve different, but equally important, roles in the world. Women are more tender-hearted than men. Men are rough and gruff. Women are beauty. Men are functionality. Women need love. Men need respect. Women are collaborative. Men are conquerors on their own. Society will say its OK for a woman to stay at home with her children but society expects men to work from teenage years til they retire and provide for their families. God just made us to fill different roles in the world and in our families. He intended there to be differences between men and women that ultimately complement the family unit and to make our children well-rounded individuals. To say that the sexes are the same is simply a social construct that ignores the eternal truth of God.


Never were the differences between men and women, boys and girls, made more known to me than during the nine years of second marriage. With the girls, they were generally more timid than the boys. Over the first years of their life, I had learned that my girls, being of the more tender-hearted sex, could be disciplined with a look or a talk. Their biggest fear was for their parents to be disappointed in them. I could get that steely-eyed look at them when they done something wrong and it was as effective as yelling and screaming. They were daddy’s girls and my approval meant everything to them. It was rare that I had to physically punish them. Sending them to their room for a specified period of time was as effective a punishment as the belt was. I reserved the belt for them only for the most grievous of child disobedience crimes. The boys were different. Man were they different. First off, before I came along, there had been no consistent fatherly presence in their lives so they were never really punished for bad behavior. So, they were a bit unruly to begin with when I got them. But, I soon learned that with boys that mean looks and steely eyed stares would not reform behavior as I wished. It took screaming and yelling and whippings. And the weird thing was that with the girls, you could usually punish them one time for a crime and they most likely would not commit that same crime again. However, with the boys, it was as if they lost their memory on a daily basis. I had to repeatedly punish them for the same crimes against daddy’s law. They would challenge your authority at every turn. So, as a result, I had to punish the boys more often than the girls. That became an issue because the boys were hers and the girls were mine. As the consequences of misbehavior had higher stakes as the children grow older so did the rift over discipline between her kids (the boys) and my kids (the girls) was a bone of contention that was one of the central reasons (among several) that our marriage ultimately came undone.


There were cries of me being unfair by the boys and that led to appeals to their mother (who would ultimately undo my punishments). Why do you spank the boys and only yell at the girls? It’s unfair. Trying to explain that boys and girls are different and must be raised AND punished differently met with deaf ears. Trying to explain that when a child (typically, the boys) breaks a rule 10 times with impunity for the rule, their punishment SHOULD be different than the child who breaks the rule for the first time. Everything got cast in the light of my kids vs. your kids and the purpose of parenting got lost in the shuffle. It was not until years later that one of the boys told me that he now, as a grown up man trying to make it in a world where men are just expected to suck it and work their entire lives and as a father of a boy himself that realized that I had to be tough on him. He said he appreciated what I was trying to do while I was in his life. Sometimes, life is not about fairness but rather about what needs to happen to make a man grow up into to his role in the world and a woman to grow up into hers.


The cries of “it’s not fair” and the most popular line of today’s passage was what came to mind as I read through this passage for the first of two looks that we will take at it. Let’s look at today’s passage together now with particular attention to the last verse (we will deal with the last verse first):


14 Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.



15 One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.


16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.


The old adage, “an eye for and eye”, comes from this passage and it was a principle to be used by the judges in the Israelite system of justice. It was not set out as a license for personal vendettas. This attitude toward justice may seem brutish to 21st century sensibilities, but it was actually a breakthrough in justice for the time period of the Israelites. Punishments fitting crimes was a novel concept in that age because ancient systems of justice were often at the whim of rulers or of angry mobs. Thus, justice was often arbitrary and unevenly applied. This guideline reflects a concern for evenhandedness in the application of justice – ensuring that those who violated the law were not punished more severely than their crime deserved.


That is what we must remember with our children – the punishment must fit the crime. We cannot be arbitrary in the application of justice with our children. The fifth violation of a family rule must be dealt with more harshly than the first violation. The first violation by that same standard should not be dealt with the same harshness as the fifth violation. The punishment fits the crime. I only pray that I practiced this principle well as I was parenting children to adulthood. I am sure that I made plenty of mistakes along the way.


The sense of justice here though is a principle that is a universal truth of God. Many today think that all roads lead to heaven and that everybody ends up in heaven. There will be cries of it’s unfair at the end when we find out that there is justice in God. He will not allow unrepentant sinners to enter into his presence in heaven. He has offered us the one and only way and that is by grace. We must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord and not seek our own way. There is just one and one only way to the Lord and that is through accepting the grace of Jesus Christ. It is fair. We have the choice to accept or reject Jesus as our Savior. We have the choice to continue in our seeking of ourselves that will result in punishment eternally for having rejected Him. It has been made known through God’s Word. It is up to us to accept Jesus or reject Him. There can be no cries of it being unfair. We know God through the intricacies of nature and the universe but we must come to know Him personally through Jesus Christ. That’s it. We’ve been told.


Amen and Amen.

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