Morning friend,

Thanks for all your support for one another on this site. This next question does not have a one size fits all answer. But I thought I’d address it because many of you will face similar situations. How do you deal with injustice? Do you keep fighting or let it go, especially when letting it go costs you? 

Question: While praying and fasting for answers to my painful divorce, God showed me 1 Corinthians chapter 6 where it talks about avoiding lawsuits with believers. It says in verses 7&8 “To have such lawsuits at all is a real defeat for you as Christians. Why not just accept mistreatment and leave it at that? It would be far more honoring to the Lord to let yourselves be cheated. But, instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong, cheating others, even your own brothers. Vs9 “Don’t you know that those doing such things have no share in the kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves…” 

I’m fighting for money I put into our home for a kitchen renovation as well as a portion of our home because he paid off our home with non-marital funds so I don’t get my half. Long story short, is Paul saying that I shouldn’t take him to court, that I should just let myself be cheated because instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong, cheating others, even your own brothers? Thank you for taking my question!

Answer: Thank you for asking this question. I think it’s important for us to discuss and wrestle with difficult questions and Biblical teachings here on this site. We may not all agree at times, but I want you to learn to think through these matters and express your voice in an assertive, godly way. Plus, a multitude of counselors brings more wisdom. 

Over the years I have seen women who are getting out of destructive marriages often treated unfairly and unjustly, in church and by secular courts. You said you are “fighting” to get your share of money in a kitchen renovation in the marital settlement. As you prayed, God led you to this passage in 1 Corinthians 6. I would pay attention as the Holy Spirit led you to read this particular passage in your particular situation. 

First, I am not a theologian, but I think Paul writes here in 1 Corinthians in response to some previous communications around problems in the newly formed church. We can pick up some of this in 1 Corinthians 3 when he speaks of divisions in the church and how immaturely they behave.

In 1 Corinthians 5, he scolds the church for not taking action over a sexually inappropriate relationship happening within the church. He’s telling leaders not to be passive with grossly sinful behavior happening right within their own church fellowship. He’s saying stop ignoring it. Stop pretending you don’t see what you see or don’t know what you know. Stop being tolerant of this man’s sin. Publicly denounce it and put him under church discipline. 

I think of this passage in light of all the excuse-making, hiding, excusing, deceiving, and covering up churches have done over the years. Churches who know their leaders or congregants are doing things that should not be tolerated such as the sexual abuse of children, racism, misogyny, sexually inappropriate relationships between those who are not married or married to other people, and abuse of Ecclesiastical power. Paul reminds us we’re all sinners, but the church has a responsibility to be an example of righteousness and justice and that giving grace does not mean covering over evil. (See also Ephesians 5:11). We must also remember that in that culture, there was not the legal protection in place against such abuses as there is today. 

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul continues his rebuke on the church for not having a place where financial disputes among members can be mediated and resolved in a godly way without bringing public shame to the church by heading to secular courts. Last, he concludes by speaking to the victim of financial injustice. He advises even if your church doesn’t handle it well or fairly, would it not be better to lose your money, than fight in a secular courtroom over this and potentially dishonor yourself, the other person, and God? 

We have to look at Paul’s words in light of the culture in which he spoke. Are his words describing godly action for the people in that day and time, or were his words proscribing what Christians should do for all times in the future? It’s important not to take one verse or even one chapter of the Bible to see “what God says or thinks” about a matter. [Tweet “It’s important to look at the entire passage, who it’s written by and who it’s written to and where else does the writer of the Bible say similar things or things that may seem to contradict this passage.”]

I don’t necessarily believe this passage forbids Christians from using secular courts to settle financial matters, especially when we are not seeking to harm someone through the court but only receive a fair settlement on what we are legally entitled to receive. 

For our purposes here, I see three essential truths that are clear. 

1. As human beings, we long for justice. God is a God of justice. Yet we may not find justice in the secular courtroom (or the church for that matter). God is the ultimate judge and we need not fret over injustice on this side of Heaven although it may cost us financially as well as emotionally. Secular judges can be bribed and biased. We see this often in the courts today with women who are fighting narcissistic, entitled husbands who drag on custody and financial settlements in the secular courts for years. 

2. As Christians, we should not ultimately depend on unbelieving judges or secular courts to give us true justice. Unbelieving judges are not wise in the Lord even if they are wise in the law. This passage in 1 Corinthians 6 is in contrast to Paul’s advice in Romans 13 where he says God puts in place governing authorities to protect us from evildoers who break the law. In1 Corinthians 6 Paul is talking about civil lawsuits with other believers over financial matters, not criminal suits over criminal matters or other kinds of wrongdoing. This is important because he is not forbidding us to call the police, press charges, or ask for justice in criminal matters. But it’s also clear churches have biases and ignore things that should not be overlooked (as in 1 Corinthians 5).

3. Last, when we have been wronged financially, Paul is not saying our only godly option is to avoid civil lawsuits and just graciously accept financial mistreatment. In his culture, he advocates that believers turn to the church for mediation of financial wrong-doing or settle matters of financial injustice through wise church advisors. This requires the church to have such a mediation process in place which is usually not available in our culture. In our culture, we have lawyers who might be Christians, who can mediate such matters wisely and fairly when possible. 

Ken Sande’s Peacemaker’s organization has sought to be the model of godly arbitration for civil (financial) disputes among believers so that civil court can be avoided (following Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 6). This might be ideal in workplace disputes or church disputes where both parties are Christian and agree to abide by the decision of the arbitrator. 

But what happens when there is an initial agreement to abide by the decision of the Christian arbitrator and then there is no follow-through in actually paying out the amount due financially? Then what? Peacemakers or churches have no “legal” teeth to enforce such an agreement. Then how do you respond? This can also happen in secular court financial settlements. 

In divorce, there is a legal decree for child support or alimony, but no actual money comes forth. In these instances, is one sinning if you go back to court and sue for non-payment when you have to feed your kids or don’t have enough housing money or have been swindled out of most of your future retirement? Or are you supposed to let it go? Is it Biblically acceptable to continue to push towards greater legal recourse? 

When someone has broken the law, even if it’s around money, is it acceptable to hold them legally responsible to make restitution or follow through on their agreement? 

Only you can make that decision. Paul reminds us that life isn’t always fair. He advises that it is better to eat your financial loss than to lose your soul fighting over your rights. So many women I work with will never get justice from a church leader, a Christian arbitrator, or a secular judge on this side of heaven. Corruption and injustice are everywhere (Ecclesiastes 3:16). There comes a time when you must choose. Do I continue to fight? Or do I accept that I will not get justice this side of Heaven, but going forward, I will not allow injustice to destroy or deform me?

Friend, if you have battled through this, I would love to hear your words of wisdom for this dear woman.

13 Comments

  1. Moon Beam on February 26, 2022 at 12:48 pm

    Oh, my goodness, I praise God for the laws of this land! They saved my life! My abuser was above the law of our church. He could manipulate any and everyone. He even tried to tell the Judge what to do. He strongly protested the charges against him and proclaimed he “would NOT stand in the court of man.” The Judge put him in his place, “Sir do you not live in XYZ county, in XYZ state, in XYZ country?” Answer, “Yes.” The judge replied, “Then YOU ARE under my authority and you a WILL abide by this court!”

    Praise God!! Finally someone to protect me when no one else would!

    • JoAnn on February 26, 2022 at 3:17 pm

      MoonBeam, I’m so glad you got that judge! Praise the Lord! I think that at the start of any legal action, it’s important to pray for the Lord’s sovereign choice for the judge. If the law is going to decide how things turn out, I think it’s important to have an attitude of seeking justice, not angry retribution. The person you mentioned might be driven by anger and vengeance, which would keep her fighting so long. She will be very disappointed when she finally gets the lawyer’s bill.
      Even though Paul advised the believers against going to court against each other, when he knew that the law was on his side, he appealed to Caesar. Acts 25:11. I agree with Leslie; we now have laws to protect victims from wrongdoers, so that does give us certain rights, and depending on the Lord’s leading in each situation, we can use the laws to execute justice.

  2. Autumn on February 26, 2022 at 1:01 pm

    I have a thought for the questioner… Can you get by without the kitchen renovation money? Attorney fees can really start to pile up the longer you fight. Your mental health and personal safety are worth more than any amount of money. I know a woman who has been fighting for over 2 1/2 years over $35 K. The legal battle goes back and forth, with no hope of resolution in sight. I wonder if she thinks it is worth it?

  3. Anne on February 26, 2022 at 1:24 pm

    Whatever you do decide to do in pursuit of a just financial outcome, do be aware that most attorneys charge 200 per hour on everything they do for you. Every email answered or sent, every phone call made is normally charged. So definitely shop for an ethical and effective attorney. And remember that they work for you, not you for them. You can save money by doing some things yourself (finding comparable prices on disputed items, gathering all paperwork you can access on accounts). Ask your attorney how you can save money by doing some of the tasks their para legal might do. They will give itemized bills with every 15 minute or more charge and what it was for. Find wise friends who love you and understand the legal system. Even an “easy” divorce with no children and only a few assets cost my daughter about 8,000.00. (That’s a cheap divorce). Because of the involvement of the military and a criminal investigation as well, we let the attorney do everything and didn’t attempt much DIY. Doing things yourself can also cost you time and money if you don’t do things just right.

  4. Judy on February 26, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    I worked for a friend’s company for a short period of time. When I left, they refused to pay me my commission. I took it as a loss and suffered for a while financially. A couple years later I came to the Lord. He brought up this incident to me. I felt that he wanted me to do something about it. I contacted the Labor Dept., and the statute of limits was to end in a week. I filled out the paperwork and filed a claim. I received the pay that was due to me. The Lord brought this about. I was too timid to do this for myself. I didn’t feel worthy.

    If by law you can’t get a portion of the house, trust that God is fighting for you and that He has a better plan.

    As for the kitchen renovation, I would check to see if the same process would be used to determine if you would be reimbursed. Was it paid for with non-marital funds? If you can prove it, would you not get your investment back?

    Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you and give you peace.”

  5. Tanya on February 26, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    I am battling this situation. Thank you. I guess it’s the faith to pray for clarity of pathway forward and you are such a blessing.

  6. E on February 26, 2022 at 3:25 pm

    When going through divorce from a decietful man God showed me verses in the books of Moses where it talks about NOT
    distorting the truth and NOT to twist the rightiousness. There are many other words about this, for example in Proverbs 21:21.
    We should strive for rightiousness over all, even if it happens to be for ourselves. We shall NOT go after the wicked’s will. We should not opress anyone and NOT ourselves either.
    We should try to listen to the cry for rightiousness in ourselves, not to gain and not to loose. We shall NOT go for the wicked ways.

    God wants to protect us from evil. Fight evil with good it says in the NT. Kindly stand for what is right, this we shall do.

    I used to think of my case as if it was my daughter’s situation. What did I think was right if my daghter was in this situation, or my little sister or my neighbour?

    To let a wicked, greedy man take everything from his former wife is NOT a rightious thing ti support. ( Even if the former wife is you)

    God is on the side of the opressed. We should not let ourselves be fooled by wickedness. If we do not do things with love it is worth nothing. 1 Cor 13.

    If we leave all resorsed with our former husband things it is not fair and also maybe our children will suffer. Half half would be fair in a divorce.

  7. Dani on February 26, 2022 at 3:44 pm

    In Luke, Jesus taught with the parable of the widow who repeatedly petitioned the unjust judge. While the point to the disciples was persistency in prayer, I think it is fair to note that He did not imply that she was wrong to pursue justice in the court. Her widow status also suggests she was in a vulnerable state.

    It is hard to discern when we are being called to turn the other cheek, and leave justice for God’s timing vs persisting in seeking secular justice. I pray you will clearly discern how the Holy Spirit is leading you in your particular circumstance.

  8. Elizabeth on February 27, 2022 at 7:52 am

    After reading your post, I’m reminded of Jer. 6 and the passage declaring, “Peace, peace, but there is no peace.
    Was elated to hear you say, “…but the Church has the responsibility to demonstrate Righteousness and Justice and that giving Grace does not mean covering up Evil.” (Caps added are mine – they represent ideal logical approaches) Those are profound words, and yet, you seem to dismiss them in item #3.

  9. Maria on February 27, 2022 at 11:17 am

    Yes, I have suffered financial injustice. Through observation, I had learned that no matter what settlement might be awarded, or how many times a legal petition for contempt had been filed again a non-compliant party, there was no real consequence/method of enforcement for the offending party. To include the financial debt into my divorce would have tied me to my ex-husband. Nothing would have compelled that man to pay restitution for the financial harm he brought upon me. I had to resign myself to this hard truth. It has taken a decade of hard work, but the Lord has provided for financial opportunities for me to work toward better financial stability. Though it was difficult, I was better off ‘letting it go’ than clinging to false hope that a selfish, unrepentant-man would do the right thing, and that the courts could help bring justice.

  10. Kirtis on February 27, 2022 at 3:42 pm

    This is very sound judgment and wisdom. It’s refreshing and solidly balanced with the biblical directive of giving and receiving through the authority and power of the spirit placed within Christ’s Church first. And acknowledging that we have been placed also under civil authority by God and that we may need to seek God’s judgment through those authorities in places where believers and non-believers have rejected Church authority as wisdom, power and love from God. If a believer can allow for calling for the elders of their church, strongholds may be broken and hearts softened and sins forgiven and broken places healed. All are invited into obedience and humility and submission before Christ’s authority whereby healing and forgiveness of sin is released. If that modeled is avoided or ignored, the church is not made irrelevant, God is. We are left struggling on our own in our own power for justice and fair wisdom rather than allowing that to flow through Godly church authority so that we can all share together in the Father’s glory.

  11. May on February 27, 2022 at 11:29 pm

    Wow 2.5 years and $35k I am only at 8 months and already spent $30k. My ex claims he has only paid $10k and I am going through vocational evaluations and my emotions are haywire hate the time. I only ever wanted him to stop cheating, stealing, and aiming to destroy our family business we started for our two children. I have begged him nonstop to give me a reason to cancel the divorce as I have like 10 other times before in 23 years together but this time he is set to move on & partly I think he has but we are in deep debt & he took all my personal savings if I didn’t have a pension I would be so worse off. I pray for this lawyer to help me but the more time goes by & I pay $5k a month much higher than my pension had to use my daughters college fund…I am more and more miserable. I can not imagine going to court and being told I’m stuck with 1/2 debt and all my attorney fees. Yes we have assets but at this rate I will have to sell my 1/2 to stay afloat. From month one when he took out my savings with a POA nearly 10 years old obviously not in my best interest and my lawyer has done nothing
    I read the same scripture listed above and yet my anger over his sin pushed me yo file as well as well intended family too. The regrets and heartaches are near to being felt physically and that is why I am just as this questioner seeking answers for what to do next. Thanks.

    • Autumn on February 28, 2022 at 8:26 pm

      Oh, May, your situation is so complicated. The woman I referred to has an attorney fee far beyond 35k. I was trying to explain that she has been fighting to get $35 in her divorce settlement. In the process she has spend more than that in 2 1/2 years. It is the “principal of it” that she keeps fighting about.

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