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The Law vs. Personal Morality

Summary:
In his commentary on Deuteronomy 19, David Guzik writes: c. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth: In Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus quoted this passage in His teaching on the true interpretation of the law. He does not say that the eye for eye principle is wrong; rather, He simply condemns the use of it to make it an obligation to exact revenge against someone who has personally offended me. i. Many Rabbis in Jesus’ day taught that the eye for eye law meant you were obligated to avenge yourself of a personal insult or attack brought against you. Jesus rightly disallowed the application of this law in our personal relationships; it was a law intended to guide the judges in the law courts of Israel, not to guide our personal relationships. ii. “Jesus’ criticism of this law (Mt.

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In his commentary on Deuteronomy 19, David Guzik writes:

c. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth: In Matthew 5:38-39The Law vs. Personal Morality, Jesus quoted this passage in His teaching on the true interpretation of the law. He does not say that the eye for eye principle is wrong; rather, He simply condemns the use of it to make it an obligation to exact revenge against someone who has personally offended me.

i. Many Rabbis in Jesus’ day taught that the eye for eye law meant you were obligated to avenge yourself of a personal insult or attack brought against you. Jesus rightly disallowed the application of this law in our personal relationships; it was a law intended to guide the judges in the law courts of Israel, not to guide our personal relationships.

ii. “Jesus’ criticism of this law (Mt. 5:38fThe Law vs. Personal Morality.) arose from its use to regulate conduct between individuals. He did not reject it as a principle of justice which should operate in the courts of the land. For private relationships He proposed the ideal of brotherhood, a strong principle throughout the book of Deuteronomy. To extend the lex talionis to this interpersonal domain was to destroy the law of God.” (Thompson)

I thought this was very interesting as it dovetails with my own views regarding libertarianism and (Christian) morality. I think “armchair reasoning” as well as market-driven case law precedent would mean that the surviving heirs of a murder victim would have the legal right to capital punishment. However, I think in practice an advanced society would quickly move away from such a tradition, and that most murder convicts would simply pay a (large) fine as compensation to the heirs. (Perhaps a third party insurer or fraternal organization would pay the heirs, and then the criminal would pay back the third party in order to get back on better terms with them.)

Or for another example, I think the legal code in a libertarian society would allow you to shoot a home invader, but I personally as a Christian would feel awful if I had to cause lasting physical harm on someone. Just like, if your literal brother for some reason was breaking into your house at night, and you ended up killing him, you’d feel sheepish around your parents and would be wondering, “Could I have handled that better?” Likewise, we are all God’s children and should do everything we can to defuse situations before they escalate into violence against our spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ.

Robert Murphy
Christian, Austrian economist, and libertarian theorist. Research Prof at Texas Tech and author of *Choice*. Paul Krugman's worst nightmare.

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