He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.
Any man can sound reasonable, when he speaks first and personally presses for his own cause. The absence of contrary facts or counter opinions, and his emotional and fervent appeals, can give credence to most any claim. Anything sounds good in a vacuum. But all propositions must be tried by opposing arguments to prove their validity. The learned apostle Paul wisely wrote, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thess 5:21).
Politicians are notorious for their spin, extravagant claims, and moving sound bites. But their promises of prosperity should be exposed to public debate and the harsh reality of facts. Trial lawyers make a good living by exposing lies of the guilty and false testimony through contrary witnesses, expert opinions, and validation of evidence. A rich man’s conceit causes him to overstate matters that the wise poor can often detect (Pr 28:11).
Are you sure you are right in a dispute? Do you have an idea you want to pursue? Are you sure a proposition is valid? Are you confused by a testimony that does not match experience? Have you heard arguments you knew were wrong but sounded right? Here is a rule to remember – every cause should be scrutinized hard for validity and truthfulness.
Solomon wrote this proverb to teach his son wise discretion when judging accusations, declarations, and propositions. This is wisdom – the power of right judgment! Truth can withstand intense examination, but most causes are not truth. Challenging unsubstantiated claims will often expose them as false and frivolous. “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going” (Pr 14:15). Skepticism trumps optimism.
Wise men prove all things. They do not care about one side of any argument. Several common expressions imply this proverb, such as conflict of interests, emotionally involved, third party involvement, arm’s length transaction, cross-examination, devil’s advocate, and so forth. Good legal systems are designed to make sure both sides of an argument are heard and that both sides may cross-examine the other side’s witnesses.
Wise men prove all things. The Jews and Romans allowed the accused to defend himself before judgment was passed (John 7:51; Acts 25:16). The Law of Moses required diligent inquisition in all matters of hearsay (Deut 13:12-18; 17:2-7), and it would not accept the testimony of one man in any matter (Deut 19:15). One of the great prerogatives of kings, or any person in authority, is to make such inquisitions (Pr 25:2). Agrippa, Felix, and Festus wisely allowed Paul to defend himself against Tertullus and the Jews (Acts 24-26).
Wise men prove all things. Paul commended the Bereans for checking his preaching by scripture (Acts 17:11). Jesus said to judge righteous judgment, not by appearance (John 7:24). Since every way of a man is right in his own eyes, a multitude of counselors can save you from deception in your own cause (Pr 12:15; 15:22). Rather than hide from examination, wise men expose ideas to challenges and questions of knowledgeable men.
It takes only a little knowledge to believe something, much more knowledge to teach it, but a great deal of knowledge to defend it. Therefore, subjecting a controversy or opinion to careful scrutiny is a wise way to protect yourself from the danger of your own heart (Jer 17:9). Prudent counselors will quickly determine the validity of your bright idea. If you rush ahead with your bright idea, your neighbor may put you to shame (Pr 25:8).
Prudent marriage counselors use only one ear when a person has issues, for they know a marriage has two spouses with two perspectives and two sets of facts. You were given two ears to listen to both sides of such situations. Haste to answer controversial matters after hearing only one side is utter folly (Pr 18:13). If you are hearing complaints of a relationship from only one side, then limit your counsel to the duties of that person only.
Prove all things by God’s word (Ac 17:11; I Thes 5:21). Religious organizations keeping their doctrine from scrutiny are dangerous. Rome did it for 1500 years by outlawing the Scriptures and using Latin in their services. Protestantism does it by denying any English Bible to be Scripture and using Hebrew and Greek from imaginary “originals.” Try every religious claim by scripture you can read (Ps 119:128; Is 8:20; II Tim 3:16-17).
Here is wisdom! Ignore claims until proven by careful research, contrary witnesses, diligent inquisition, or cross-examination. Do not press a new idea, controversy, or opinion without exposing it to challenges and questions by wise counselors or opponents. When arguing a matter, honestly give the counter position as well. If a preacher, include objections to your doctrine to instruct hearers, buttress the truth, and silence adversaries.
Jesus Christ had a cause – the greatest in history – God’s glory, salvation of His elect, and declaration of truth. He was first in His cause, and He opened it to full view of critics and enemies (Jn 18:19-21; 3:1-3; 7:26; 8:2; Mat 4:23; Lu 19:47; Ac 10:36-42). By impeccable honesty and righteousness, no one could prove a single counter argument (Mark 14:55-59). His righteousness condemned them, even the railing thief nearby.
Therefore, He is the Faithful and True Witness (Rev 3:14; 1:5; 19:11). You may fully believe Him and His cause, for it is the purest and most precious you will ever hear or need. Throw all your contrary or doubting arguments and thoughts out – run to Him by faith and believe every word from Him and about Him in the scriptures. You will never be ashamed or confounded, world without end (Is 45:17; Rom 10:11; I Pet 2:6). Amen.