Legal Corner with your Christian Attorney Mark F. Viencek
Law Offices of Mark F. Viencek
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Should A Christian Ever Sue?
By Mark F. Viencek
I’ve heard many in the Body of Christ take the position that it’s unbiblical and unbefitting of a true believer in Christ to resort to the courts to resolve a dispute. I personally received Christ as my savior and was born again in 1984, one year before I entered Law School at Syracuse University. I started my legal career litigating personal injury cases and have been involved in litigation ever since, so it’s a question I had to resolve from day one. If my profession was displeasing to the Lord I would have to do something else. It’s that simple.
Those that maintain a Christian should not sue another point to scriptures like Matt. 5:40: “And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.” Looking at the context, however, didn’t Jesus make some extreme statements in Matt. 5 to stress deeper spiritual principles? Surrounding verses, for instance, if taken literally, would leave many believers with one eye (v. 29), one hand (v. 30), and obligated to give money to everyone who asks (v. 42). Can a doctrine that it is wrong for a Christian to sue be established on verses such as these? Or what about verses like Rom. 12:14 which says to bless those who persecute you. Just several verses later, however, Paul says that government is ordained of God to uphold justice (Rom. 13:1-7). Furthermore, Paul exercised the right of defending himself under Roman law (Acts 16:37, 38; 22:25-29; 25:10-12). Clearly, he did not interpret “turning the other cheek” as requiring him to forego invoking his legal rights. Many of the legal rights we have today are biblical in origin. This is particularly true of personal injury law, where one’s right to receive compensation as a result of another’s negligence is set forth in Exodus 21:18, 19, 33-36; 22:5, 6.
I believe that when we take into account what all of scripture has to say on the subject, instead of isolated verses, the position that has the greatest scriptural support is this: it is not ungodly or unbiblical for a Christian to bring a legal claim or sue, provided that the one bringing the claim can do so with biblical integrity. Is the cause just? Is the person being honest? Can they and will they plead their case with integrity (Isaiah 59:4)? What’s their motive (compensation for loss versus vengeance/retaliation emanating from bitterness or unforgiveness)? Did the other party have insurance that covers the loss? Does the situation implicate 1 Cor. 6:1-8 (where both parties are Christians, which is almost never the case)? I have turned down many cases involving substantial amounts of money, because they did not satisfy this biblical standard.
The insurance component is important when considering whether it’s permissible for a Christian to assert a legal claim. In many instances, such as auto accidents and other situations involving personal injuries, the negligent party has liability insurance covering the loss. Thus, when the believer in Christ pursues a legal claim for the loss, the believer is proceeding against the insurance money and not the personal assets of the negligent party. I think that many of those espousing the “a Christian shouldn’t sue” position fail to take this into account. They also fail to take into account the fact that sometimes in order to recovery from the insurance, the wronged party has to file a lawsuit to motivate the insurance company to pay and in most instances, the case is settled before trial.
A final note regarding something I’ve personally encountered. A believer feels he is doing the “right” or “noble” thing by not pursuing a legal claim because “Christians don’t do that”; yet because of the injury/wrong he sustained, he’s in desperate need of the money he could have recovered (often insurance money) to support himself or his family had he pursued a legal claim. I question the wisdom of that.
About the Author: Christian attorney Mark F. Viencek has over 25 years experience. He has developed a reputation as a voice people trust and a first point of contact for those looking for advice, direction, and the highest level of representation possible.
All articles that have appeared in Legal Corner are available on Mark’s website.