"The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him."
~ Proverbs 18:17
One of the biggest examples of this (and perhaps this is what the author of this proverb had in his mind when he wrote it) is in a court of law. After the prosecution states their case about how the defendant is guilty, the defense attorney gets a turn to explain the other side. The defense also gets to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses: “How far away were you from the scene when you saw my client? Are you saying you were able to recognize his face in a crowd from 50 yards away?”
Another example of this truth (“the first to state his case seems right”) can be easily seen by almost any parent who has more than one child. Parents, how many times have you had a child run into your bedroom and say something like: “Jacob destroyed my Lego set! He’s so mean!”? A wise parent will not run to the other side and immediately punish Jacob. No, she will instead ask Jacob what happened. And, in my experience, there are many occasions where Jacob says, “Hunter got mad at me because I had the last yellow piece so he shoved me into the table that the Legos were on; that’s how his Lego set fell to the ground and broke.” And then the parent glances over at Hunter and asks, “Is this true?” to which Hunter replies, “Yes, but…”
Ah ha, that conversation is somewhat predictable, because the first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.
We can also see this happen within friendships in the form of gossip. I’ve seen people who completely cut friends out of their lives based on something they heard about second-hand. They never bothered to verify the news they heard; they literally just stopped speaking to the person they heard the gossip about. What a shame.
So, I wanted to remind you of this proverb today. The first to state his case seems right. But that doesn’t mean he necessarily is right. We need to get in the habit of either dismissing one-sided gossip as questionable, or else start investigating things we hear about before we act on them.
In fact, I believe that different situations call for different strategies. There have been some things that I have heard that I felt I simply must go check to get the other side of the story, in order to make a correct decision. However, if I checked on every little thing I heard about every day, I’d have to quit my job in order to have time to follow up on every story. So, there are other occasions that I don’t investigate at all. I simply categorize the news that I’ve heard as “questionable” and then move on with my life.
You probably do quite of bit of this intuitively on some issues. But sometimes we forget to be consistent. So, I wanted to remind you about the importance of this proverb: “The first to state his case seems right.” Let us not forget it.