“Two Wrongs Don’t Make One Right’

by Steven Chan

It is quite common to hear one trying to justify one’s action by contending that the other party had acted in an unkind, unjustified, selfish and even hypocritical manner. So, if a spouse shouts in anger, the other yell back (perhaps even louder) and justifies the action by pointing out that the other one had behaved badly. Such is quite a common rule of conduct by the people of the world. The Bible refers to this sort of behavior as one that ought not to characterize those who would be His disciples:-

“Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, resist not him that is evil: but whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also”. (Matt 5:38-39)

The rule of behavior that causes one to knock off “a tooth for a tooth” is also condemned by the apostle Paul in his epistles to the church at Rome, at Thessalonica and also to the churches in the Dispersion:

Rom 12:17:  Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men.

1 Thess 5:15:  See that none render unto any one evil for evil; but always follow after that which is good, one toward another, and toward all.

1 Pet 3:8-9:  Finally, be ye all likeminded, compassionate, loving as brethren, tenderhearted, humbleminded: 9 not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling; but contrariwise blessing; for hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

In Rom 12:21, the Bible warns us: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” But we find that it is so easy for many to fall back by default to behave like the rest of the world, and render evil for evil!

In the Old Testament, we read of the circumstances that led to the people of God to ask for a king:

1 Sam 8:4-5: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah; 5 and they said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

The people of God asked for a king because they felt that “the sons” of Samuel were not behaving like their father – and at the same time they saw that their neigbouring nations had kings to lead and govern them. So, in their own wisdom they felt that it was the right thing to do in the circumstances. One can almost hear them say:

“It’s your fault, Samuel! You failed to teach your sons to walk in your footsteps! Your sons are not good leaders. Your sons, Joel and Abijah whom you made judges in Beersheba “turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted justice” (I Sam 8:3). That’s so wrong and what are you going to do about it, Samuel!? We will not condone their bad practices. The people of God will not progress if we do nothing and allow the situation to continue. We will not be content to do nothing about the situation. We want to progress and move forward like the rest of the nations. We want a king to judge us – just like all the nations. We don’t feel that it is wrong to ask for a king. We will debate with anyone who would dare to accuse us of sin just because we ask for a king. Being a people of God has nothing to do with organizational structures. We have not said that we will not worship our God. It is just that we should modernize and have a better organizational structure by adopting the latest prevailing governance methodology and do away with primitive governing structure that can no longer serve us today. In any case, God has not specified that we cannot have a king. Show me where in the Scriptures God has said that we cannot have a king! We want a king! We demand a change in our leadership structure.”

Of course, Samuel was displeased with their proposed solution. The record does not say that Samuel was angry because they had accused his sons of not walking in his ways. It says that he was upset because they had asked for a king like the rest of the nations: they had come up with a solution that was merely copying what the nations around them were doing, i.e. have a king! In fact, they had also rejected Samuel as their judge or leader. Samuel was old but he was still alive then when they asked for a king to replace him.

1 Sam 8:6-7: “But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto Jehovah. 7 And Jehovah said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them.”

In fact, God Himself was not pleased with them because He construed their action in asking for a king as in effect rejecting God as king over them. God had ruled over them through His appointed servants like Samuel and the other judges before him.

Brethren, some of us behave in like manner as those Israelites. We tend to get so upset by the actions of others (perhaps justifiably), that we also do the wrong thing ourselves – just like those Israelites! We reject what we perceive as “hypocrisy” or “faith without works” on the part of some of our brethren but we quickly embrace the way of the world in insisting to do things (even good things) like the rest of the world and alongside the world (we want to win the world by being friends with the world) – even though God has said:

2 Cor 6:14-15: “Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever?”

James 4:4: “Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God.”

Instead of trying to be conformed to the way of the world (Rom 12:1-2), they ought to have sought God for guidance as to the best solution in their circumstances. God was there and He was not silent. In fact God told Samuel to explain to them that their proposed solution of having a king would not be in their best interest (I Sam 8:9-18).

But they were stiff-necked and rejected the word of God:

1 Sam 8:19-20: “But the people refused to hearken unto the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay: but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.”

The people of God in the times past rejected the counsel of God because they wanted to “be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles”.

The sons of Samuel did wrong. The people of God were right to be concerned with the misdeeds of the sons of Samuel who had been appointed by their father as judges in Beersheba. They were right to express their concerns about all the wrongs being committed by the sons of Samuel, Joel and Abijah.

But they were wrong in coming up with their own solution without prior consultation with God. They were wrong also in that they wanted to copy the model of governance of the nations around them. Some of them might have “studied” at these foreign universities and graduated with doctors of philosophy degrees. Others of them might have been “seconded” to work in the “administrative offices” of these foreign offices and would vouch that the governance system was definitely superior as all nations had adopted the practice (i.e. have a king) as compared with their own system which smacked of “nepotism” (Samuel appointing his sons as judges) and clearly archaic!

They were wrong in rejecting the warnings of God about the folly of having a king. They might have felt that God was “helpful” in helping them escape the Egyptian armies, and also in “conquering the land” in which they now dwelled. But they must have thought that God’s way was not really appropriate to “governing” a settled nation! In a similar vein, some brethren behave in similar fashion today; some contend that God’s way is to be closely followed when it relates to having our sins forgiven; other than that it is free for all!!

Brethren, let’s remember that two wrongs don’t make one right! Remember that the prodigal son did wrong but that did not justify the action of his older brother in protesting against the father’s acceptance of his long lost brother (Luke 15:11-32). Beware of self-righteous anger and action. Some of us may be so upset with the sins or hypocrisy of some of our brethren that we may be allowing Satan to take advantage of us. God warned Cain:

Gen 4:6-7: “And Jehovah said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7 If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door: and unto thee shall be its desire, but do thou rule over it.

Cain failed and fell to the devil. Will we be able to overcome?