Law - Spirit or the Letter
Many of Jesus's harshest pronouncements were on the Pharisee's who had continually focused on the letter of the law to thwart the spirit of the law. In the bible, the spirit of the law is summed up by 2 commands, love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as youself. (Matt 22:37-40)
With these 2 sentences, and an understanding of man's nature and the world, you can get to every law laid down by God. In Australia and the US we have millions of words written for our laws simply because we have forgotten or intentionally disregarded the difference between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law. This is why, year after year, loopholes are found and 'legally' exploited and have to have even more legislation written to close them. A couple of years ago, Queensland (the state where I live) introduced smoking laws to govern where people were allowed to smoke in restaurants and the like. However, because of a gaping loophole, most places could safely ignore the legislation. The letter of the law had thwarted the spirit of the law.
Strict adherence to the letter of the law also causes other problems. Judges have less and less leeway to use their own wisdom and common sense in rulings. The latest example of this comes from Napa Valley in the US, where a judge has ruled that
Despite warnings that police will be at risk, a Sonoma County judge has decided that uniformed officers cannot cut in line for security, saying it would be unfair to everyone else.Never mind that
"Standing in line with known or unknown suspects in front of and behind officers for an extended period of time is contrary to officer safety training and is a recipe for disaster," the April 8 letter stated.
Common sense has taken a backseat to adherence to the letter of the law.
Whilst it isn't always a bad idea to have clear understanding of the purpose and scope of the law, strict adherence to the letter of the law causes problems.