Let the punishment fit the crime



May 28, 2015

This week’s Maxim is ‘Multiplicat transgressione crescat paenae inflictio.’ The increase of punishment should be in proportion to the increase of crime. In other words, to quote a famous Latin quote, ‘Culpae poenae par esto.’ Let the punishment fit the crime. 

The more a nation neglects this basic principle of justice, the more injustice will reign in that nation. The people will slowly lose faith in the legal system and will want to take justice into their own hands. 

This principle can be seen in the family as well. If a father cannot be seen as a source of justice between the children that he cares for, the family environment will slowly become chaotic and everyone will do as they please, not fearing or caring about the father’s words. 

God warned Israel of that long ago through his laws when he said in Exodus 21:24 ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.’ Ultimately, what God is telling us is that our punishments must be fair according to the crimes or felonies that were committed. Even Black’s Law Dictionary (fourth edition) has the term justice as the ‘Distribution of rewards and punishment. It assigns to each…the proper punishment for his crimes.’ 

The question that we now need to answer is, who should dictate what is a fair punishment for crimes or by what standard can the rulers of this earth (the Canadian government included) abide by when it comes to ‘…the proper punishment for his crimes’? 

Enter into this discussion, the issue of restorative justice. ARPA Canada hosted a talk on Parliament Hill with Dr. John Smith on the topic of restorative justice in the Bible. A transcript of the talk can be found here. As Charles Colson wrote in his book, Justice that Restores

“restorative justice, therefore, offers aspects of the biblical view of shalom, a peace that is intrinsically relational and righteous… Take Psalm 85:10: “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” …only a biblical worldview can produce a system of true justice, one that holds individuals responsible for their actions (that is, fallen individuals have a moral duty) under an objective rule of law (which we believe is rooted in revelation) but always in the context of community and always with the chance of transformation of the individual and healing of fractured relationships and of the moral order.”

– Maximus

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