“The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.”
Within our sin nature, that old self that we inherited from Adam, there is a tendency to deceive others. This is especially true when we state our case to other people with the aim of getting them to agree with us about someone that we are not particularly happy with.
In an intense desire to get somebody to agree with us, we passionately pour out our case to others. Our hope is that they will see that we are in the right and that the other person is in the wrong. We want them to join us. We want them to defend us and accuse the other person. We passionately want other people to begin viewing us as the innocent party and the other person as the guilty party.
We Seem Right
However, in doing so, we deceptively and perhaps unconsciously “cast a shade over, or even omit, what might seem to balance on the opposite side.” Because we are so zealous in our effort to get others to agree with our case, we deceptively portray the other person in such a way that those who are listening to us will inevitably agree with us. And because we are the lone person that has stated our case against this particular person, those who listen to us think that we are right. They do exactly what we were hoping they would do – they begin thinking that we are innocent and that the other person is guilty.
Until Cross Examination
Until, as the proverb says, “the other comes and examines him.” Those who are acquainted with both the person and situation come and shed light on everything that we misconstrued and omitted. Perhaps even the person that was originally being talked about comes to give their side of the story.
This reveals to all that we were not as in the right as we originally seemed to be. As Charles Bridges said, “The first tale is good, till the second is heard.” The verdict changes once all the facts are known. Through our deception, they joined us for a while. With increasing clarity, however, they begin to realize that everything isn’t as it originally seemed.
Played Out Everyday
Because this is the inspired word of God that exegetes the sinful nature of man with incredible precision, we see this played out every single day. Cops see this played out during arrests. Judges see this played out in court hearings. Marriage counselors see this played out in sessions with embittered married couples. Parents see this played out with their children. And pastors see this played out within the church. When the first person states their case, there is almost always truth mixed with error – there is almost always just enough deceit to get the other person to agree with them! God is not ignorant of this. This is why Proverbs 18:17 is in the Bible.
Applying This Today
First, if we are stating our case, we must realize that it is very difficult to “state facts and circumstances with perfect accuracy where our own name, or credit is concerned.” More often than not, our sin nature wants to portray facts and circumstances in such a way that we appear to be absolutely right and others appear to be absolutely wrong. We must realize how susceptible we are to this and strive to fight against it. We can do this by distrusting ourselves, examining ourselves to uncover any prejudices that we have, and asking God to search our hearts for any hidden evil that lies within. In turn, this will rid us of deceit and lead us to increasing truthfulness.
Second, we must not establish a verdict too quickly when we are listening to someone make their case. We must hear both sides before we come to a verdict. This is something we have heard since we were children, but it is something we still need to hear today. It is always wise to postpone the casting of a verdict until both sides have been heard. This will keep us from being deceived and led astray. This will also keep us from viewing a particular person wrongly. Therefore, when somebody makes their case, be sure to search for another person that can shed further light on both the person and situation being talked about. Perhaps even approach the person that was being talked about directly to get their side of the story. This will ensure you have all the facts before you cast a verdict.
Applying this proverb in these two ways will allow us to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. For in seeking to apply this proverb in these two ways we ensure that we are loving our neighbor well. I’ll end with some advice from Charles Simeon. The more he aged in wisdom and grace, the more he sought to abide by these rules that he laid down earlier in his life.