“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.” – Proverbs 17:15 (ESV)
As I began to read and meditate on this seventeenth chapter of Proverbs, the theme of adversity was on my heart. Countless people are going through adversity in our world, nation, state, city, community, and more directly, in our own homes. While you may not be going through adversity right now, be assured that you will. Oh, sure it would be nice to live in a world where everything goes just the way we want it but that’s not reality. Reality sets in and there are just some things that happen to us that we frankly cannot control. Despite the claims of some Christian pastors, more prayer and devotion to God does not result in His favor and blessing on you in the sense that you will never experience adversity. That isn’t biblical or practical. It is fair to say that adversity will strike every individual in some form or another. Granted, you may not be starving as thousands of children around the world are, but I am sure that there is at least one relational, physical, emotional, or mental adversity that has, is, or will be affecting you greatly. With this in mind, we must approach such cases of adversity with realistic and open hearts and minds. The greatest question now becomes, how do we handle this adversity? I will not take the time to (nor do I claim the wisdom, experience, or insight) instruct you on how you should handle each adversity. There are many Christian books that address this issue in depth. (One such book is How to Handle Adversity by Charles Stanley – I highly recommend it) Nevertheless, it will suffice here to address what I believe is the first and most vital step to handle an adversity. We must be realistic with what has happened particularly when it has been sin that has caused the adversity. It is vitally important in dealing with the adversity to rid your mind and emotions of personal ties and allegiances so that you can clearly and correctly judge the situation at hand. I pray that a look at Proverbs 17 will provide some insight and that God would use His Word to gift us with more wisdom particularly when it comes to dealing with adversity.
Proverbs 17:15 – A Comparison
Firstly, when looking at this verse, it is important to observe the comparison between a person who “justifies the wicked” and a person who “condemns the righteous.” It is clear that from the usage of the words “both” and “alike,” that the act of justifying the wicked and the act of condemning the righteous are the exact same. One who justifies one who is wicked is equal to one who condemns one who is righteous. It is obvious that wisdom is absent from any person who would commit such acts. Just to clarify, the phrase “justify the wicked,” means to declare a guilty person innocent. Likewise, the phrase “condemn the righteous,” means to declare an innocent person guilty. Both offenses are one-in-the-same. Justifying the wicked would be like defending someone’s actions and behaviors and trying to make excuses for them even though they are behaving wickedly. Condemning the righteous would be like placing blame for the evil actions on someone who hasn’t committed such acts of evil. These two instances can and usually do in fact go hand-in-hand. When someone justifies someone’s wickedness, they usually place the blame on someone else and that person is usually innocent of such accusations. Now, when you are not in the heat of an adversity, this way of behaving seems preposterous. However, when sin is brought out into the light, especially when it concerns someone you love dearly, you are forced between reality and your own wishes. While you may want your loved one to be innocent of their sinful acts, in reality they are guilty. In order to even begin to handle adversity, you must place the problem in the correct perspective (reality). Be realistic so as to maintain sound judgment when it comes to taking a position in the adversity. You may in fact be forced to choose between your loved one’s reputation and maintaining integrity. Nevertheless, you must avoid the great sin of justifying sinful actions and wickedness as well as refraining from condemning one who is innocent.
Proverbs 17:15 – An Abomination?
Why in fact should you avoid this great sin? And why is this sin so great? Sure, it will most assuredly hurt relationships and also diminish some of your credibility and witness as a Christ-follower. While these are both true realities that will result from justifying wickedness and condemning righteousness, they are not the biggest reason that you should avoid these sins. Let’s go back to the simple observations found in verse 15. I have observed that there are two sinful acts that compare and are in fact “alike.” But how do I know that they are sinful in the first place? Take a look and observe the seriousness of the last part of the verse: “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.” Wow! This is a very strong word that requires some defining. Merriam-Webster’s given definition for “abomination” is “extreme disgust and hatred.” Does the word “abomination” carry more weight now? The verse could now essentially be read as, “…are both alike an extreme disgust and hatred to the LORD.” We are always so quick to describe God as loving all the while leaving out His wrathful characteristics against all sin and wickedness. It is tremendously unwise to rob God of His full character and nature. It is therefore correct to assume and declare that God does hate. The word “abomination” is used 121 times in the ESV Bible. This word is always associated with hatred and utter disgust, be it toward sin (Isaiah 66:3), eating with foreigners (Genesis 43:32), or worshipping idols (Isaiah 44:19). Therefore, to say the least, in seeking wisdom, it would be foolish to ignore this warning. Scripture is clear that justifying the wicked and condemning the righteous is an utter disgust to the LORD. When the God of the universe, “who sees in secret,” clearly expresses that these acts are an abomination to Him, wisdom would tell us to pray that we would be realistic in adversity and seek God’s eyes to see into the reality of the situation before rashly justifying wickedness. Pray that God would break through the high door of pride that you have made for yourself so that He will keep you from utter destruction. (Proverbs 17:19) To put it simply, it is wise to refrain from anything God hates.
In closing, I feel I must clarify that this sin is just like any other sin. Justifying the wicked and condemning the righteous are abominations to God just as all other sin is. If you or I commit this sin in times of adversity, we must be as a man with understanding and accept rebuke. Do not be a fool who requires a hundred blows only to not receive the rebuke as deep as you would with understanding. (Proverbs 17:10) Receive rebuke with understanding and repent for this sin. God’s forgiveness and grace is boundless, covering all sin for all time for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord; the one who lived the perfect, sinless life that we could never live in order to achieve righteousness and clothe us with it. Adversity is inevitable and in fact, God tests our hearts by adversity. (Proverbs 17:3) When it is caused by sin, particularly our own sin or the sin of a loved one, it is very easy for us to jump on their side of the situation and defend them with all of our ammunition of how “it couldn’t possibly be his/her fault” (justify the wicked) or “it must have been caused by him/her” (condemn the righteous). All the same, these two positions must be avoided due to God’s hatred of them and the destruction it can bring us because of the pride that stands in our way. When adversity comes your way, the first step that must be made in handling it is being realistic and righteous by placing fair judgment on all those involved. If someone is guilty, even if they are your own spouse or child, do not declare them innocent for it is an abomination to the LORD. If someone is innocent, even if you have hard feelings toward them, do not declare them guilty for it is an abomination to the LORD. Seek wisdom. Be realistic in adversity. Joyfully accept correction and rebuke when you act rashly. Then repent. Do not allow pride or the adversity to cloud your judgment. Pray that God would illuminate your spiritual eyes so that you may clearly view the adversity with a realistic vision so as to avoid wrongly accusing an innocent person as well as wrongly justifying a guilty person.
By His Grace,