A photo of a worn Bible open to Matthew 5:40, capturing the words "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well."

What Does The Bible Say About Suing?

Lawsuits are a fairly common occurrence in today’s society. When disputes arise over contracts, injuries, or rights, people often turn to the court system to settle the matter. For Christians, this raises an important question – what does the Bible say about filing lawsuits?

Can believers take other believers to court? Is it ever acceptable? In examining Scripture, we find some clear principles about pursuing legal action.

The short answer is that the Bible discourages Christians from suing each other. Christians are instructed to settle disputes within the church. Lawsuits should only be a last resort against non-believers. However, the Bible does not prohibit all lawsuits in every situation.

Lawsuits Between Believers are Discouraged

I Corinthians 6:1-8

In 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, Paul strongly discourages believers from filing lawsuits against each other.

Paul asks, “If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?” (v.1). He sees it as a failure for Christians when they have to take their disputes before non-believing judges in the secular law courts.

This shows a lack of wisdom within the church to judge such matters.

Matthew 18 Principles

Jesus laid out clear principles in Matthew 18:15-17 for resolving disputes between believers. First, the injured party should go directly to the offender and address the matter privately. If unsuccessful, they should return with one or two others.

Only after these attempts at reconciliation fail should the matter be brought before the whole church.

Paul echoes these principles in 1 Corinthians 6 when he chastises them for failing to judge disputes internally. He says in verse 4, “therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church?”

Essentially he is saying, “why are you airing your dirty laundry in front of non-believers?”

Lawsuits Against Unbelievers Can Be Permissible

I Corinthians 6:1-8

In I Corinthians 6:1-8, the apostle Paul addresses lawsuits between believers. He strongly admonishes the Corinthian church for taking their disputes before unbelieving courts rather than settling them within the church.

Paul says it would be better to be defrauded than to bring lawsuits against fellow believers in front of unbelievers (v.7). This passage provides some principles regarding lawsuits:

  • Lawsuits between believers should be avoided if possible, and disputes settled within the church (v.1-6).
  • It is shameful for believers to bring lawsuits against each other before unbelievers, rather than handling matters internally (v.6).
  • At times, it may be permissible for a believer to bring a lawsuit against a non-believer, although this passage does not directly address such situations (v.1).

While Paul strongly opposes believers suing fellow Christians, he does not condemn legal action against non-believers in every circumstance. This leaves open the possibility that lawsuits against unbelievers could be permissible in some cases.

Examples in Scripture

There are several examples in the Old Testament of God’s people bringing legal claims and lawsuits against non-believers:

  • Abraham brought a complaint against Abimelech for seizing a well he had dug (Genesis 21:25-32). This dispute was settled between them through arbitration.
  • Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped by the unbeliever Shechem (Genesis 34). Her brothers took revenge by attacking Shechem’s city.
  • Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to Caesar to be tried before the Emperor (Acts 25:10-12).

While none of these directly involved formal lawsuits, they demonstrate that legal action against non-believers was not inherently viewed as wrong in all cases. However, pursuit of legal rights should be exercised with caution and restraint.

Principles for Deciding Whether to Sue

Pray and Seek Godly Counsel

When considering whether to pursue legal action, the most important thing is to pray and seek wise counsel (Proverbs 11:14). Ask God for wisdom and discernment about your situation. Consult with your pastor, spiritual mentors, or other respected believers who know you well.

Getting insight from mature Christians can help guard against acting rashly out of anger or wounded pride.

Try Less Adversarial Means First

The Bible encourages believers to make every effort to resolve disputes through humility, honesty, and patience rather than escalating conflicts (Matthew 18:15-17). Try directly discussing grievances in a spirit of love and reconciliation. Write a heartfelt letter explaining your perspective.

Ask for Christian mediation. Explore what both parties can do to make amends and move forward.

Consider Your Motives and the Message Sent

Christians suing other Christians sends a negative message to the world about the Church (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). Prayerfully examine your motives. Are you driven by greed, vengeance, or pride? Or do you genuinely seek justice and restoration of what was lost?

Ask yourself if a lawsuit is necessary or if there might be better solutions that witness to the love of Christ.

Evaluate if Your Rights are Being Violated

In some cases, like when one’s livelihood or family security is threatened, pursuing legal action may be warranted. Scripture permits civil claims when people do not receive what they are properly owed (Luke 19:8). But be cautious.

Prayerfully investigate whether a law or binding agreement is being broken. Seek legal counsel about the validity of your case. And remember, believers should always prioritize reconciliation over retribution (Romans 12:17-21).

Alternative Methods for Resolving Conflicts


Negotiation is a process where two or more parties with a conflict or disagreement meet to discuss their needs and try to reach a mutually satisfactory solution. It involves communication, bargaining, and compromise to try to find a win-win resolution. Some benefits of negotiation include:

  • Allows parties to resolve disputes themselves without third-party intervention
  • Generally less expensive and quicker than going through the court system
  • Parties retain control over the outcome
  • Improves relationships by promoting understanding

Successful negotiation involves:

  • Active listening and understanding each other’s viewpoints
  • Finding common interests and mutually beneficial solutions
  • Being open-minded and creative in exploring options
  • Focusing on needs rather than rigid positions
  • Being respectful, flexible, and willing to compromise


Mediation is a voluntary dispute resolution process where a neutral third party, called a mediator, helps the disputing parties negotiate a settlement. The mediator has no decision-making authority but facilitates communication and promotes understanding between the parties.

Mediation is appropriate when:

  • Parties are unable to negotiate successfully on their own
  • Emotions are getting in the way of resolution
  • There is a communication breakdown
  • A third party is needed to help find areas of agreement

Some benefits of mediation:

  • Less adversarial than court proceedings
  • Parties craft customized solutions addressing interests and needs
  • Confidential process
  • Often less expensive than litigation
  • Preserves relationships

The success rate of mediated cases is estimated between 70-80% according to the Harvard Law School.


Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution process where disputing parties present their case to a neutral third party or panel called an arbitrator. The arbitrator then makes a decision that is typically binding on the parties.

Arbitration is less formal than going through the court system and has some advantages:

  • Usually faster and less expensive than litigation
  • Less adversarial proceedings
  • Parties can choose expert arbitrators familiar with the issues
  • Greater privacy as hearings are not public

However, there are some downsides to arbitration:

  • Limited rights to appeal the arbitrator’s decision
  • Arbitrators may not strictly follow the law
  • Less discovery than in court litigation
  • Binding decision rather than creating own solution

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, arbitration is used to resolve disputes in over 11% of private industry employer-union contracts.


In summary, the Bible discourages lawsuits between believers and instructs Christians to make every effort to resolve disputes within the church. However, Scripture does not prohibit all legal action. Lawsuits may be permissible and necessary against non-believers in certain situations.

Christians facing potential lawsuits should pray, seek godly counsel, try less adversarial means first, examine motivations, and evaluate if rights are being violated. Ultimately, Christians must make prayerful, biblically-based decisions about any pursuit of legal action.

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