Did you see this? A headline from the Associated Press around Halloween time announced: “Pennsylvania prosecutors have dropped a felony theft charge against a man who underpaid for a soda by 43 cents.” What?! That doesn’t seem reasonable!
Makes you kind of question the Justice system, right? They were calling an underpayment of 43 cents a crime! Not a misdemeanor, but a crime, worthy of jail time?
The story goes that the guy was at a gas station, saw that Mountain Dew (which I believe is the best drink ever) was 2 for $3.00. So, he grabbed one, put 2 $1.00 bills on the counter and walked off. Seems reasonable. But because he only got one, the register demanded $2.29 plus tax. At this point he had walked away. So the clerk reported him to the police. For $.43 – that doesn’t seem reasonable.
Well, the guy had two other misdemeanors on his record, and in Pennsylvania, the home of the city of brotherly love, a third misdemeanor automatically becomes a felony. Seems reasonable. I think. So the dude, for miscalculating 43 cents, was charged with a felony. Bail was set at $50,000 cash, and he sat in jail for a week till a public defender could convince a judge to let him go. That doesn’t seem reasonable.
But then, come to find out, besides the two petty thefts from years ago, this guy had been caught stealing items from Hobby Lobby with his wife just this last summer, and had recently paid $2,000 bail and was working on a “diversion” program that the State offers.
So now, what’s reasonable?
The Bible encourages us to be slow in judging what might be reasonable or not. In Romans 2:1 the apostle Paul says: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Jesus was more direct: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:37,38a).
The Bible doesn’t teach that you don’t judge at all (Jesus also is quoted as saying “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? Luke 12:57). We have to pass judgement all the time. Do I trust someone with my money? Do I trust the person when they motion for me to go first in traffic? Do I trust the neighborhood to go walking in it? They’re all kinds of judgements we have to make from day to day. But when it comes to other people’s behavior, the Bible asks us to slow down. Partly because we tend to want leniency when it comes to ourselves, but strict justice when it comes to others. The Bible also asks for some pause because we have to recognize that God is the only One who sees the whole picture. Like the story about the dude and the Mountain Dew, with each turn in the story, you kind of change your mind. God not only knows all the facts in the story, He knows the heart of that individual. You and I don’t.
We live in a world so chalk full of information that we have to quickly judge what matters and what doesn’t. The Lord asks us to look beyond the headlines however, and towards the people behind them, and then seek to relate to them.
Words to live by!
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. John 8:7,8