Faith— 04/08/2021

“Has Justice Gone Up In Smoke?”

By Pastor Ron Buxton

It was an urban legend that even Snopes.com investigated. Pastor Chuck Swindoll recounted it as if it was true. What’s more, even country singer Brad Paisley playfully wrote a song in 2003 that captured the story behind it. And so, the following is a brief rendition of that urban legend.

Over twenty years ago, a shrewd lawyer bought a box of 24 expensive cigars. In fact, they were so expensive that he took out an insurance policy on them. And, since he was a lawyer, he read all the fine print on that insurance policy. That’s when the idea came to him.

You see, those same cigars were insured against damages due to fire! And so, one by one, that lawyer smoked that entire box of cigars–only later to report them to the insurance company as a loss! Seemingly, the perfect crime. That is, until after he cashed the settlement check for thousands of dollars. More on that later.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about so-called social justice. However, society has a hard time defining that word “justice”. Why? There must be some kind of an agreed upon measurement (or scale) to evaluate rightness and wrongness. That’s because all human transactions, whether you realize it or not, are based upon that premise.

Let me illustrate. I cannot just hand the bank a withdrawal slip for 100,000 dollars, and then expect them to give me all the money. Imagine the conversation.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Buxton. You don’t have that much money in our bank.”

I could respond, “Well, that’s just your opinion! Who are you to say that? I count pennies just like they are dollars!”

Why would I be wrong? Because societal harmony is based upon those agreed upon social standards or measurements for almost everything. And that brings me back to the urban legend that I began this article with. The punch line of that story resonates with us BECAUSE we understand an agreed upon social standard. You see, after depositing the insurance check for the loss of his cigars by fire, that same lawyer was arrested for 24 counts of arson! And the moral of the story is that justice will ultimately never go up in smoke! Sooner or later, without salvation, people will pay for their transgressions.

Have you ever pondered the games that we play to justify wrong behavior? We should. The Bible tells us that our hearts are deceptive (Jeremiah 17:9). Did you know that? And that’s why the mantra “follow your heart” might work for a Hallmark movie, but it will eventually get you in a whole lot of trouble with God!

God is concerned with social justice, but His concern goes beyond mere political agendas. You see, until we are granted a “justice”–not of our own, but credited to us through Christ—can we objectively assess where real change can occur. And any justice that doesn’t point people back to God will ultimately go up in smoke!