Timothy McVeigh was tried for killing 168 people by bombing the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. After he was found guilty, the defense brought in his parents and friends to plead for him not to receive the death penalty. This is forbidden by Scripture.
We all feel for any man about to die no matter what he has done. If we don’t, we are lacking in compassion, but we must be true to Scripture which forbids misplaced pity. Pity can sometimes be evil and was in this case. Pity must go to the families of victims—not the murderer. We must never allow our feelings and emotions for people cause us to do wrong. There are five places in Scripture in which pity was forbidden:
- Deuteronomy 7:16 forbad pity on a foreign enemy which was a danger to the nation.
- Deuteronomy 13:6–9 forbad pity on someone, even a family member, who tried to entice you to serve other gods. In a theocracy this was treason and punishable by death.
- Deuteronomy 19:11–13 forbad pity on a murderer. He was to be executed without pity.
- Deuteronomy 19:21 forbad pity in all matters in which justice was being carried out.
- Deuteronomy 25:11–12 forbad pity on a woman who failed to be decent even in a retributive act. This was meant to check all tendencies toward lewd practices.
One reason we are not to have pity is that punishment, swift and sure, will deter criminal behavior! I believe we can draw some principles from these Scriptures for our day.
1. Televised court cases should be forbidden. They bring people into the case who should not be involved and arouse “misplaced pity.” Juries, just knowing that other people are watching, cannot help but be effected. Such was true in the O. J. Simpson case.
2. Once guilt is established, a judge should decide punishment according to law, not the sentiments of the people.
3. We must guard ourselves from misplaced pity even in the home. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Chasten thy son while there is hope and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
4. Punishment of crime does deter crime according to the Word of God (Deuteronomy 17:13).
5. We must not only guard our actions, we must guard even our feelings! Our feelings must never overrule God’s Word!