Caring for Prisoners

Tim Brown

READ : Exodus 21:23-25

. . . eye for eye, tooth for tooth . . . (v. 24)

An eye for an eye. It sounds harsh. But it was meant to be humanizing. This statute was designed to curb excessive violence, to weave a tit-for-tat principle into the law. If your neighbor knocked out your tooth, the law entitled you to knock out his tooth. But you were not entitled to knock out his tooth and break his nose. You may only inflict as much harm as has been inflicted on you. You can’t go overboard.

One test of any society’s humanity is its treatment of prisoners. There is a common belief that prisoners are coddled at the taxpayers’ expense, and that the more we can deprive inmates, the tougher we can make prison life, the more effectively justice will be served.

Friend, it is enough to put a person behind bars, to shut him off from freedom and family. There is nothing we need to add to that experience to further the cause of justice.

In his parable of the Last Judgment, Jesus says that the criteria for separating the sheep from the goats will be six-fold. The first five are easy to remember: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick. It’s the sixth one we usually forget: “I was in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:36).


Pray for prisoners.