Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

Free The Church

Right in Their Own Eyes

Eyes of Man

Seeing and knowing what is right

Published on: May 9, 2010

Too many people do not trust their own senses. Too many believers rely on the law instead of the leading of the Spirit in their lives. We have been encouraged to not trust ourselves which results in rootlessness. The political government encourages us to rely on them not ourselves. The church government does the same. The book of Judges is considered to be a time of anarchy by most in the Church. The famous line that is quoted is,

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6 KJV)

which is also repeated in Judges 21:25. As I began my journey away from organized religion and began to question the role of governments both in the Church and politically, I wondered if we had misunderstood the book of Judges. In 2008 I wrote my first blog on the topic . No one responded to the topic, so I let it go.

However, the Lord has brought this back to my mind and I have been meditating upon it again. I must confess at the outset that I am so influenced by the general negative opinion of the verse that it still seems like a negative statement. But the facts of Scripture speak against that feeling which shows how we are so easily influenced by other people’s opinions that it blinds us to the plain facts.

The influence of the world permeates every area of our thinking. Christians think that more laws are the cure for society’s ills. Recently I heard Jerry Tuma make a similar statement in his radio broadcast. He recognized that the problem is government, and broadcast the soundbite of Reagan’s famous saying:

“Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
Ronald Reagan

He was addressing the financial mess the government has got us in. Yet he qualified his statement that he was not advocating the removal of government because that would bring anarchy. On what basis does he make that claim? Where in world history can this be shown? It can not except in government transitions where one government is rivaling another. He is assuming the worst in human nature. A friend on Facebook said that the doctrine of Total Depravity in Calvinism promotes the assumption of the worst in people.

Anarchy suggests that the majority of people would be lawless. Yet, the Bible tells us in Romans that both the knowledge of God and the laws of His creation are written in every heart, the conscience bearing witness.

Rom 2:14-15
14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law,
15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) (NIV)

It is true that hardness of heart covers both that law and the conscience so the internal witness of right and wrong becomes unclear for the unregenerate, but the new birth strips that away and restores that internal clarity.

Yet, the truth is, the majority of people are not so hardened in heart that they are degenerate criminals. For thousands of years societies have conducted themselves in an orderly fashion because everyone exercised the right of self defense, bearing their own arms (or using just their arms) while political governments played a small part. In fact, the existence of political governments shows that the majority of people do want to live orderly and lawfully.

It is the wish for power by those who want to lead governments to control others, when in truth, the majority do not need to be controlled. This desire to control others is expressed not only in political governments, but church governments, and corporate governments. People, in general, do not need to be controlled because God has given self control as a gift to all men, and all have a measure of self control.

To buttress its position of authority over other believers, organized religion has taught us that “every man doing what was right in their own eyes” was bad. The assumption is that every man would live contrary to the laws of God and anarchy would reign. But that does not line up with the facts of Scriptures.

These are the facts:

  • More evil was done under the kings than occurred during the time of Judges. For almost 400 years they lived peacefully with only 13 judges raised for leadership when needed, which is about every 30 years. But from Saul to the Babylonian Captivity (432 years), wickedness ruled most of the time with only a few bright spots of good kings. For the northern kingdom of Israel they had 19 kings of which the Bible declares all were evil. The southern kingdom of Judah had 20 kings of which the Bible states that only 6 were good kings. Of the 13 Judges only Samson was considered bad, even though he succeeded in the end through no virtue of his own.
  • Also, the Judges reigned in a temporary fashion. In other words they only intervened when there was a need. For the most part, the people left on their own did that which was right. This is an amazing comparison.
  • God was not displeased with the time of the Judges. There is no wrath of God in spewing them out from the land as there was for the two kingdoms.
  • The prophets are only seen raised up during the time of the kingdoms because of their horrific evil. There are no prophets raised to rebuke the Israelis during the time of the Judges.

To my surprise, I found out recently that the Jewish interpretation of that verse is in the positive, not the negative. Consider what this writer says.

The Talmud calls the Book of Judges, “the Book of the Straight.”


Because the ultimate goal of every Jew is to use his free will to work out what is wrong and right, using the Torah as a guide. And this is what happens in the Time of Judges.

In those days, there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his eyes. (Judges 21:25)

You might think that this verse sounds like a description of anarchy. But there was no anarchy; the vast majority of Jews were totally dedicated to Torah and were making decisions in the right way, and didn’t need someone tell them what to do. Indeed, that is the ideal situation. The tribes functioned as a loose confederation of states with strong central leadership arising only when the nation was threatened by an external enemy.

Of course, the lack of central authority following the death of Joshua did have negative consequence; a small minority, took it as a license to slip into idolatry and immorality. This happened largely because the Jews did not get rid of all of the Canaanites, as they were commanded to do, and the Canaanite pagan influence was felt. Judaism Online

I don’t totally agree with this writer, however. The Israelis were unregenerate with a temporary experience of God through the animal sacrifices. If they had completely destroyed the Canaanites, they would still have drifted off track. Even with the new birth, Christians still have free will and can choose to sin, and do sin. Neither do I believe that they followed the Torah as this writer suggests. Both times that verse is written in Judges, the Israelis were not obeying the Torah. However, they were trying to do what was right. The point of the verse is that their motivation was good, even though their execution failed. And this is my point, too.

We need to remember that God did not want human kings ruling Israel.

1 Sam 8:5-7
5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. (KJV)

God even warned the people through Samuel of all the evil that governments would create.

1 Sam 8:9-18
9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”
10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king.
11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.
12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.
13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.
15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.
16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.
17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.
18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.” (NIV)

World history is replete with atrocities committed by the minority that controls governments. The natural desire to gratify self with wealth and power is always abused by many of those who become government leaders. The Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity should be a discouragement for creating governments. If individuals are totally depraved, then what happens to totally depraved people who are given power over other people? They create wars for more power. To quote Reagan again:

People don’t start wars, governments do.
Ronald Reagan

By now the reader may think that I am an advocate for abolishing all political governments. I am not. I am only trying to challenge the reader’s assumptions about political and church governments. The general belief is that all governments are ordained by God, therefore must exist and must be obeyed. What is correct is that God has given us the right to create governments. I address this in detail in my article, “By What Right Do Governments Exist?”

In a nutshell, God has two sets of laws. His laws, and the right of people to make agreements in concordance with His laws, which are government laws. His laws are summarized in the 10 Commandments and violations of such are considered felonies. Agreements of men, called statutes, are considered misdemeanors when violated. Government laws that violate God’s laws are null and void. We are not required to keep such laws. Two biblical examples are Daniel continuing to pray to Yahweh when ordered to pray to Nebuchadnezzar as a god, which caused him to be thrown into the lion’s den (Daniel 6:7-10) and the apostles, when ordered not to teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:28). To which Peter and the apostles replied:

We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29 KJV)

Agreements of men can be very productive and beneficial to all society. Everyone agrees that roads and the defense of our borders are benefits of good government. So governments are not inherently wrong. The temptation to abuse that power, however, is always a problem. What is ordained by God is the right of men to form governments. Nowhere in the Bible are evil governments sanctioned by God, nor are we commanded to obey evil decrees.

I have always been amazed by the story of Phineas in Numbers 25. The Israelis committed fornication with the daughters of Moab, sacrificing and worshiping Baal-Peor. Yahweh brought a plague upon the Israelis for this. Yahweh told Moses to kill the heads of Israel who joined the idolatry to stop the plague. A Midianite woman was brought before Moses weeping . Phineas grabbed a javelin and thrust her (and her Israeli lover) through the gut. Moses did not tell him to do this. Nor do we have any indication that God spoke to Phineas. He just knew what was right. The plague was stopped, and Yahweh commended Phineas for his actions and blessed him and his seed in an everlasting priesthood (Num. 25:10-13). Phineas acted on his own, not under obedience to his government (Moses) leader. God expects us to do what is right without needing to be told so. We are required by God to do what is right in our own eyes. This is not a statement of anarchy. It is a statement of unity to the heart and spirit of Christ.

We the people know what is right and wrong. No one will have an excuse at the Judgment Seat of God. We are all held accountable to God on an individual basis. God judges nations in this life and individuals at His Judgment Seat. The unregenerate know right and wrong and are without excuse. How much more the House of God in the regeneration? We can trust our own senses as individual Christians. We have the Spirit that gives us right discernment and His Word for our conscience understanding. Every man is to do what is right, and we can see what is right.

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