Category Archives: Justice

When Silence is Self-Hate

Proverbs 29:24

“Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not.”

Bewrayeth

When was the last time you used “bewrayeth” in a conversation? I don’t know if I have ever even seen it in a crossword puzzle. But before we go any further, let’s make sure we understand this old English word.

According to Strong’s Concordance,  the Hebrew נָגַד (nagad ) occurs 370 times in the King James Version. Besides “bewrayeth,” nagad is translated most often as “tell,” “declare,” and “shew.” Therefore, it is safe to conclude that “bewrayeth” carries with it the idea of making something known or telling it the way it is.

So, then, what does “bewrayeth’ have to do with partnering with a thief and hating one’s soul?

Partners

First, it must be understood that a partner in crime is just as guilty as his other partner in crime. The one driving the getaway car and the one laundering the money are just as guilty of bank robbery as the one who takes the bag of cash from the safe.

Are you a partner with a thief? Do you recoil at that question? Stop and consider that if you know of someone committing a crime, no matter how small, then you are just as guilty if you keep silent. For instance, do you know of a man who beats his wife and yet have never reported the abuse? If so, then you are enabling him to do his dirty work, which makes you his partner in crime.

Self-Haters

The hard thing to grasp is that when we try to stay out of something by remaining silent, we are not doing ourselves a favor. So many people will witness a wrong or learn of a crime, but keep silent in order to protect themselves. But even though one may stay out of the spotlight or courtroom, the one that “bewrayeth it not” hates his own soul.

What is a worse form of hate: to hate one’s body, or hate one’s soul? Which is worse, the fear of jail time or eternal damnation? Simply put, there are deeper consequences for “not getting involved” than for speaking out in the face of evil.

 

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Rough Justice

Proverbs 29:15 

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
To discipline a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child. (NLT)

I have memories of being disciplined as a child at home and at school. There were times when I thought that the punishments were unfair, but there were times when I knew I deserved what I got. Some punishments are no longer legal in the UK, such as the use of corporal punishment in school. In my junior school if the headmaster caught a pupil standing outside a classroom having been sent out for some misdemeanor then his overly large hand usually made contact several times with the backside of the offending pupil. It didn’t matter that the pupil had already been punished by being sent out from the class. At secondary school punishment was more brutal with the use of the cane, again against the backside of an offender. The cane inflicted significant damage breaking the skin. A caning was known as the ‘cuts’ for good reason. One caning was sufficient for me to make sure I never received another.

Detentions were another form of punishment. The ultimate sanction and one level below a caning was the ‘headmaster’s detention.’ When a teacher gave a headmaster’s detention details of the offence were recorded on a special form that had to be taken home and signed by a parent, then returned to the school where a lengthy after school detention took place under the supervision of the headmaster. The signing of the form meant that parents were fully aware of the sins of their offspring, often resulting in further punishment at home because of the shame/disgrace brought upon the family.

The punishments I hated the most were the punishments when I was blamed for something someone else had done. Adults also face miscarriages of justice, and there are men and women who have served years in prison for crimes they did not commit. A television program in the UK called ‘Rough Justice’ has resulted in a number of people being freed from jail, often many years after they were convicted despite being innocent.

It is easy to forget that rough justice is what Jesus faced after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane on trumped up charges. Those responsible for the events leading up to his execution, and especially the man who signed the execution order, were all fully aware of His innocence. Jesus may have died a shameful death, but He didn’t bring shame to His Father at any point during His life or death. In dying a shameful death Jesus brought glory to God and made a way for our shame and disgrace to be removed from God’s memory. Because Jesus accepted rough justice we do not have to face justice at all. And the name for that is grace.


Worms Need a Savior, Too

Proverbs 28:24

“Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer.”

We All Do It

There are many people in the world that call right “wrong,” and wrong “right.” As a matter of fact, we all probably do it, and a lot more than we think.

When is the last time you broke the law and sped down the highway? Did you justify your actions with something like, “They should have never made the speed limit that low.” When is the last time you watched a rated-R movie and condoned the sex or violence as “art” or “entertainment”? Does Philippians 4:8 (whatsoever things are pure…think on these things) ever cross your mind?

So, before we read the above proverb with too much indignation, let us first examine our own actions.

Friends of Murderers 

But before we get all depressed and feel like we have no moral high ground, let’s get back to the message of the proverb at hand. Simply put, the one who steals from his own mother and father lives in the gutter of humanity.

I personally like the way the New Living Translation deals with this proverb: “Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.” That’s right, the one who steals from his parents is no better than a murderer. Pretty harsh, isn’t it?

Oh, but wait! What does the Bible say in 1 John 3:15? It says: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer…” A murderer! Seriously, I can’t stand the scum who would rob his parents and say, “No big deal.” That kind of person needs to be dealt with in the harshest manner. But then again, what he really needs is a Savior.

Alas! and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I? 
 – Isaac Watts

Do You Want a King?

Proverbs 28:16  

The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.
A ruler with no understanding will oppress his people, but one who hates corruption will have a long life. (NLT)

When I typed the question ‘how many countries are there in the world?’ into Google I expected the answer to be around the 200 mark. One website provided more information than others naming dependent and disputed territories in the answer:

Since South Sudan became an independent state on 9 July 2011, there are now 195 independent sovereign states in the world (including disputed but defacto independent Taiwan), plus about 60 dependent areas, and five disputed territories, like Kosovo.

That makes 255. I grew up in the island of Guernsey, which is one of the dependent areas, being a Crown Dependency of the UK. Systems of government vary widely across the spectrum of states, dependent areas and disputed territories. One thing that seems common to all systems is the requirement for someone to be in charge. In Guernsey the Crown is represented by a Lieutenant Governor and a Bailiff. In the UK the Queen is a constitutional monarch who is represented in parliament by the Prime Minister.

The teaching in this proverb appears to be directed to monarchs, prime ministers, presidents, governors, and the like. We don’t have to look far in our world to discover that many of the leaders of the 255 nations and dependencies have either never heard this proverb, or have chosen to ignore it. In many countries, perhaps even our own, politics has become a system of power that enriches the incumbent politicians to the detriment of much of the remainder of the population. Perhaps that is why it was God’s preference for Israel not to be like other nations and be ruled by a king? When the prophet Samuel warned the people that a king would draft their sons into his army, and their daughters into his service, they ignored him. Even warnings of slavery to the king and taxation failed to change their minds (1 Samuel 8:10-20). The people’s response was; “Even so, we still want a king, we want to be like the nations around us.”

Isn’t that true for us too? We want to be like those around us? We forget that God calls us to be different. If we keep one foot in the world then we will be corrupted by it. If you think about it, what the world has to offer is a form of oppression. We don’t need a prince or a politician to oppress us, because the ways of the world will suck us in and keep us in servitude, oblivious to all that God has to offer. Do you want a king? Then you need to look beyond the world and the voices that try to drown out the gentle whisper of the true and incorruptible King.


Lions and Bears

Proverbs 28:15

“As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.”
“A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor as a roaring lion or an attacking bear.” – NLT

Tyrants

Plenty of tyrants have no regard for their subjects. One only has to review the last one hundred years of history to come up with scores of individuals who preyed on the poor, helpless, defenseless masses; each one a mad, blood-thirsty animal.

“[They are] brutish, barbarous, and blood-thirsty; [they are] rather to be put among the beasts of prey, the wildest and most savage, than to be reckoned of that noble rank of beings whose glory is reason and humanity.”[1]

Lion

Lion (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Even worse are the kind that convince their victims that the carnage being inflicted is supposedly for their own good. As self-proclaimed kings of the beasts, they claim it is their right to thin the herd, to remove the weak, so the strong can survive. But they are only hungry animals, void of compassion, fulfilling their natural desires.

Tyrant Topplers

To many it would seem like lions and bears are unstoppable. To be sure, those who value life run in fear from them, or at the very least give them what they want whenever they growl. But lions and bears are not invincible.

“And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.” – 1 Samuel 17:34-35 KJV

Lest the tyrants become to smug and confident in their power, it would be wise of them to remember all it takes to topple them is nothing more than a little boy with a big God.


[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1018.


“I Pity the Fool!”

Proverbs 28:8

“He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.”
“Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.” – NIV

Pitying the Fool

When I was growing up in the 1980’s, my family and I loved to watch The “A” Team on television. Each week we would look forward to how a group of former Green Berets would battle bad guys, firing thousands of rounds of ammunition and wrecking multiple vehicles, all without ever killing a single person.

One of the most lovable characters on the program was Mr. T. He was a large, tough, black man with a Mohawk haircut and enough gold necklaces to finance a small army. Any time he was challenged, his famous catchphrase was, “I pity the fool!”

Today’s proverb, however, describes how a hero will one day come along and avenge the ones who have been taken advantage of by the rich. The hero will have pity on the “poor,” not the loan shark.

Pitying the Poor

There are many that claim to be doing the poor a favor by loaning them money. Yet, once the money is loaned, the rich take advantage of the situation, binding the poor to an even greater debt. If there is a warning to be had, Solomon makes it clear that God does not approve of taking advantage of the poor, especially by inflicting unreasonable interest rates and fees.

I wonder, then, what Solomon would have to say about places that offer payday/advances? What would he think of locking the poor into 300+% interest rates? Those who offer these “services” should be very careful, for one day their profits may end up in the hands of a “Mr. T” who pities the poor.


From Riches to Rags

Proverbs 28:6 

Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.
Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and rich. (NLT)

There was once a vertically challenged tax collector who climbed into a tree to see over the heads of the crowd when a famous itinerant Teacher came to town. The gentleman in question was reasonably wealthy, but should not have been. Why not? Because he was a civil servant. He gained his wealth not through fair wages but by cheating the taxpayers of the town. Did he feel any discomfort or remorse about the way in which he accumulated his riches? Possibly not, but something drew him to a Teacher with no visible wealth, just a wealth of wisdom in His words.

The tax collector was called Zacchaeus. When the Teacher came to the tree he looked up and told Zacchaeus to come down out of the tree, and immediately invited Himself to dinner. The dinner party that followed was a life-changing event for Zacchaeus and resulted in him donating half of his wealth to the poor. The reminder probably went in the compensation he promised to anyone he had ever cheated. Scripture does not say that Zacchaeus was reduced to a life of poverty because of his encounter with the Teacher, but it seems likely. Not everyone who met Jesus was changed in this way, but everyone has a choice. Listen to the words of eternal life, or walk away (as one rich young man did).

This proverb is very similar to Proverbs 19:1, which also teaches that it is better to be poor and honest, than dishonest and a fool. The fact of the matter is that God does not measure wealth in worldly terms, but examines each human heart to discern whether wisdom is present and in what quantity. Zacchaeus appears to have been blinded by the shiny things of the world, but had sufficient wisdom to recognize the need for change in his life. His encounter with Jesus didn’t just change his life, but totally transformed it. I can’t imagine that anyone in the crowd saw that one coming.

Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! (Psalm 53:1 NLT)