At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
“He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; But his neighbour cometh and searcheth him”Proverbs 18:17
“The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him”Proverbs 18:17
This caution, this admonition, is in the book of Proverbs for a reason. The frail human tendency to jump to conclusions is an ancient one. We hear some gaudy report that puts somebody in a bad light, and we then head off to tell somebody else about it. But the wisdom of Scripture says wait. You don’t know the whole story yet.
The proverb is not telling us that we may not share a bit of news, such as the fact that Cindy just had her baby this morning. There is no accusation in that, there is no charge. Even if the person giving the report were mistaken, and people came to believe something false, the only conclusion they would eventually come to, when they had gotten the truth, would be that Cindy was not yet a mother. But if the statement were something scandalous, such as saying that Cindy had been let go from her job because she had been caught embezzling money, the situation is different. This is the kind of statement—we should all know—that Cindy really might want to dispute. And the principle given here is that there must be an opportunity to dispute it. And why?
The first person to speak into the microphone can make a very plausible case. The facts seem damning. But I have seen many situations where everything seemed to be really clear and really obvious, and when I heard the other side, the whole thing flipped.
And this is why all conscientious Christians must be adamantly opposed to what we might call “trial by Internet.” As mentioned at the beginning, this temptation to be unjust to the person who is first accused by someone, before a defense has been offered, is an ancient temptation. We have always found it easy to be unjust. But what the modern digital era has done is this. We now have the capacity to be unjust at a high rate of speed.