Obeying Decisions of Courts of Law (Deuteronomy 17:8-13)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

Moses sets up a system of trial courts and courts of appeal that are surprisingly similar to the structure of modern courts of law. He commands the people to obey their decisions. “You must carry out fully the law that they interpret for you or the ruling that they announce to you; do not turn aside from the decision that they announce to you, either to the right or to the left" (Deut. 17:11).

Workplaces today are governed by laws, regulations, and customs with procedures, courts, and appeal processes to interpret and apply them appropriately. We are to obey these legal structures, as Paul also affirmed (Rom. 13:1). In some countries, laws and regulations are routinely ignored by those in power or circumvented by bribery, corruption, or violence. In other countries, businesses and other workplace institutions seldom intentionally break the law, but may try to contravene it through nuisance lawsuits, political favors, or lobbying that opposes the common good. But Christians are called to respect the rule of law, to obey it, uphold it, and seek to strengthen it. This is not to say that civil disobedience never has a place. Some laws are unjust and must be broken if change is not feasible. But these instances are rare and always involve personal sacrifice in pursuit of the common good. Subverting the law for self-interested purposes, by contrast, is not justifiable.