When I was in middle school, I hated my neighbor with the furor that can only arise between two people who had once been best friends. I wanted justice for everything she’d done wrong to me. For example: once, she and I and several mutual friends were playing around at a car wash, throwing the soap suds at each other. She got some in my eye; only luck made me gain control of myself while I was in the process of trying to slam her into a brick wall in retaliation.
That’s how human justice goes: not only do I want you to receive what you dealt to me–I want you to receive it twice as bad, or ten times so. Consider, for example, the case of the woman who spilled hot coffee in her lap and demanded millions of dollars in restitution.
When God told His children, “you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21:23b-25), He was not demanding justice; He was setting limits on it. We would want to take two eyes if one of ours was damaged; God conceded that His children will not overlook every wrong and allowed us to ask for fair compensation.