John Gill’s exposition on Proverbs 25:8
“Go not forth hastily to strive
To go to law with a neighbour; think well of it beforehand; consider the nature of the cause, whether right or wrong; or whether it is a matter of such moment as to go to law about; whether it will not be deemed a frivolous and vexatious suit; whether able to bear the expenses of it, and what may probably be the success of it; lest [thou know not] what to do in the end thereof;
for a livelihood, having spent all thy substance in the lawsuit, and so reduced to poverty as not to know how to live, or how and where to show thy face, through the disgrace that shall fall upon time by losing the cause; when that neighbour hath put thee to shame;
in open court, and proved himself to be in the right, and that thou art in the wrong; himself an honest man, and thee a litigious person.”
Debate thy cause with thy neighbour [himself]
“Between thee and him alone; lay the matter before him, and hear what he has to say for himself, by which you will better judge of the nature of the cause; try to compromise things, and make up the difference between you, which is much better than to commence a lawsuit; at least such a step should be taken first; see ( Matthew 5:25 ) ; and discover not a secret to another;
if the thing in controversy is a secret, do not acquaint another person with it; keep it among yourselves, if the affair can be made up without bringing it into a court of judicature; besides, by communicating it to others, you may have bad counsel given, and be led to take indirect methods: or, “the secret of another”, or, “another secret do not discover” F2; if you know anything scandalous and reproachful of your neighbour and his family, you are contending with, which does not concern the cause in hand, do not divulge it, as persons from a spirit of revenge are apt to do, when they are quarrelling or litigating a point with each other.”
. (8-10) Wisdom in avoiding court.
Do not go hastily to court;
For what will you do in the end,
When your neighbor has put you to shame?
Debate your case with your neighbor,
And do not disclose the secret to another;
Lest he who hears it expose your shame,
And your reputation be ruined.
a. Do not go hastily to court: Sometimes the court of law is necessary, but we should never go hastily to court. If it is possible to resolve a dispute any other way, we should do it that other way. This was Paul’s later teaching to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).
i. “After squandering your money away upon lawyers, both they and the judge will at last leave it to be settled by twelve of your fellow citizens! O the folly of going to law! O the blindness of men, and the rapacity of unprincipled lawyers!” (Clarke)
ii. “Jesus gave a similar teaching in Luke 12:57–59.” (Garrett)
b. When your neighbor has put you to shame: This is another strong reason why one should avoid court – you might lose and be putto shame. Many people who go to court have an unrealistic confidence that they will win.
c. Debate your case with your neighbor: Solomon’s wise advice is to settle it out of court. If you can debate your case outside the court, do it there. The debate may expose a secret that would be to your shame in open court and from that your reputation be ruined.
i. “To run to the law or to the neighbours is usually to run away from the duty of personal relationship—see Christ’s clinching comment in Matthew 18:15b.” (Kidner)
ii. “One should not smear another’s name to clear his own or a defendant’s.” (Waltke)
iii. Adam Clarke could not help but add this: “On this subject I cannot but give the following extract from Sir John Hawkins’s Life of Dr. Johnson, which he quotes from Mr. Selwin, of London: ‘A man who deliberates about going to law should have, 1. A good cause; 2. A good purse; 3. A good skilful attorney; 4. Good evidence; 5. Good able counsel; 6. A good upright judge; 7. A good intelligent jury; and with all these on his side, if he have not, 8. Good luck, it is odds but he miscarries in his suit.’”