The New Testament references teachers of the law at least 63 times – none positively. Matthew 23 records seven daring condemnations of these lawyers including, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Mt. 23:23.
Would Jesus have the same daring condemnation of lawyers today?
The Legal Landscape
Gallup recently released a poll on the most honest, ethical professions. Nurses top the list while lawyers continue to hover near the bottom just above congressmen and used car salesmen. Only 21% of the general public finds the profession honest and ethical. And Christians? Only 17% of them think lawyers are honest and ethical!
Have you heard the joke about the lawyer…. We have a lot of jokes, many are pretty funny. But one of the most tragic jokes is the one about a man and his son crossing a cemetery. The boy stops and tugs on his dad’s arm.
“Daddy. Why are there two men buried in this grave?”
The father looked and smiled. The tombstone read, “Here lies a lawyer and a Christian.”
Apparently 83% of Christians agree with this joke. You cannot be a true Christian and a lawyer. Are they right?
Why did Jesus condemn lawyers?
Jesus was no respecter of persons or professions. His condemnation of lawyers was not in regard to their profession, but in regard to their hearts. Lawyers in Jesus day specialized in interpreting the law and minimizing risk. They created rules to be certain everything was done by the book – the Torah. But they lost their concern for people. Jesus said it this way,
Obedience to the law is important but “do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Mt. 23:3.
Lawyers hid behind ethical rules to justify not helping neighbors. Limiting risk they managed their time and money down to the tiniest moments – even the tiniest spices. But they completely missed the importance of justice, mercy and faithfulness.
Today’s Legal Tragedy
Lawyers today face immense challenges as many live on a six minute clock. Multiple demands are placed on their time and they specialize in minimizing risk. Most are not willing to step outside their area of expertise so they do not lift a finger to help move the heavy load of injustice faced by neighbors.
1 in 3 Americans cannot afford an attorney. While there is 1 attorney for every 248 Americans there is only 1 legal aid attorney for every 14,600 Americans in need. The gap is enormous! Consequently 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans last year received no help. And contrary to popular opinion if you cannot afford an attorney one is NOT appointed for you. That’s only if you are accused of a crime – not if you are the victim of fraud, exploitation, abuse or caught in our civil or government legal systems.
Today’s Legal Opportunity
Don’t miss God’s opportunity. Jesus condemned lawyers for their pride which blinded them to the needs of others (Mt. 23:5-7,10). Always smart these lawyers excused why they walked past the injured neighbor on the Jericho road. Don’t be like them. Stop and love your neighbor.
Steve did. A busy lawyer living on a six minute clock he could have comfortably remained like 68% of all lawyers who volunteer no time for legal aid. But he refused to let fear or excuses stop him from stepping out in faith and starting a legal ministry at Northwest Community Church in Phoenix.
Steve recruited a support team of non-lawyers, including Christie, to serve four hours one Saturday a month. Every month someone walks in the church on Saturday who would not come on Sunday. They see Christ love in action and are provided a plan that frees them from crushing legal burdens. Many meet Christ. Some return to church the next day. All leave with hope.
Lawyers cannot do this alone. Stop telling the jokes and support them in their desire to do legal ministry. Not all lawyers are bad – even in the Bible! Paul commanded Titus and his church to “Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.” Titus 3:13.
Help today’s Zenas.
Lawyers need your support. They need you to encourage and come alongside them in serving neighbors. Rather than walk away from all lawyers, pray for them. Pray for more lawyers to rise up to stand in the gap on behalf of those in need.
Rescue the lawyer from busyness and a six minute clock. Help rescue them from the fear of not being an expert. Rescue them to live out the call of Christ to do justice, love mercy and be faithful with the law degree God has given them. Share the video below and send your lawyer friend to gji.org/lawyer. They can hear another story of a woman rescued from walking away as she stopped to make a difference. They can download a guide demonstrating how all training, insurance, cost, and every barrier has been broken.
Like another teacher of the law who asked Jesus if he really had to stop and serve a neighbor he did not feel qualified to help, lawyers today have a clear choice (Lk. 10: 25-37). Will you stop? Will you listen to Jesus and courageously Go and Do Likewise?
Download our guide How to Use Your Law Degree for Life-Changing Impact to get started.