From Jim O'Brien
February 03, 2017

Hi Friend,

Presumptuous Sin

There is a circumstance described in the Old Testament that applies to the dilemma the United States is facing today. When a matter could not be resolved between the parties in conflict it was brought before the elders of the community to mediate and render a consensus decision. Each party agreed to abide by the judgment, which then became a legal decision binding on everyone involved.

But problems sometimes arose. A person might regret the decision, change his mind, renege on his commitment and act contrary to the decision. The penalty for this was severe. The law said, "Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously. (Deuteronomy 17:12-13)

The word "presumptuous" is key. In modern parlance it simply means to fail to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate. For example, it is presumptuous to attend certain events without being invited.

To be honest, when I first studied the passage I was puzzled by the severity of the punishment for what seemed like a comparatively minor infraction. Taking a man's life for being presumptuous appeared too harsh.

After all, it is God who gives us the principle of "an eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth," so how could acting presumptuously equate to death?

But this concept has great bearing on a 21st Century democratic community. Riots, murders and serious crimes have increased significantly over the last few years. America, indeed the world, is on the brink of anarchy. We're learning that a democratic community can only exist as a people of consensus. Presumptuous people who will not be bound by an electoral process are a threat to civilization. Events we are witnessing tell us the "why" of the scriptural instruction.

It is hard to overstate the importance for each individual to recognize the value of laws on the entire community. As important as the laws of worship are-and they are-it's important for men to respect the rights of other men. Jesus said that the test of the church, the spiritual community, is the ability to love one another. Later, the Apostle John asked, "for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1 John 4:20) Commitment to God without respect for the rights of other men is empty religion.

Civilization requires living by consensus. A community of people MUST agree to standards of conduct that are universally binding on every citizen. It is one of the great blessings of a democratic society. We ALL agree to live by the same laws and those laws are binding on every member of the community. We all have the right to VOTE-meaning we have a voice in HOW we are governed and it also means the result of the voting process is binding on all.

It is inevitable that any elected candidate will not receive 100 percent of the votes. The citizen who does not recognize the choice of fellow citizens is presumptuous. No community can tolerate the presumptuous person who is intolerant of the rights of the others.

It's WHY we choose judges to enforce the written law-not make their own. The judge who makes his own laws is presumptuous! The community has agreed to a system of justice and the judge must respect the laws created within that system.

The laws that have been agreed upon from the beginning of the country are those that are the consensus of the community. To walk contrary to those laws is a presumptuous sin. It is easy to overlook that in the eyes of God, it was a sin worthy of death.

The great benefit of the constitution is that it is the consensus opinion of the founders of the nation agreed to by every state representative who spoke for all the citizens. They all walked away from the table in Freedom Hall in Philadelphia with a commitment to the consensus opinion.

For any man, or group of men, to turn back from that community commitment is a sin of extreme presumption worthy of the most severe penalties.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien