Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 24:11
"Deliver those who are being taken away to death. And those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back. If you say, 'See we did not know this...'"
Two observations jump out. There seems to be two kinds of death here. Those who are being taken away is one form of death, and those who are staggering to slaughter is another kind of death. The first is injustice in that they are being taken away; forced to do that which will destroy them. The second is affliction and oppression. Our society seems incapable of understanding that some people volunteer to be oppressed. They stagger towards sin and evil because it is made to look alluring.
Righteous people in every age must seek to battle against both forms of death. When one sees a form of injustice being imposed upon someone or a group, then if it is in your power to help free them, one must help free them. This is why racial, ethnic, class, gender, and age oppression must be opposed by righteous people.
When you see a person who is being unfairly oppressed or afflicted, you have to step in and do what you can. Corrie ten Boom stepped in when the Jews were being rounded up and exterminated. In every generation and in every culture there will be those afflicted and oppressed.
The word deliver is the nasal in the Hebrew which means save, deliver, escape. It means to help a person find a way of escaping the coming death. Notice that God is keeping record in the next verse of whether you were aware of the oppression of others or whether you were just ignorantly selfish. Don't try and say to God at judgment day that you didn't know.
Also, there are those who are staggering to slaughter. They seem to be willingly moving in the direction of that which will destroy them. I see these as those who are moving into destructive habits: gambling, pornography, overspending, alcoholism, wild riotous living. People will be tempted to pursue a course of life that will end in death. They will want to be selfish and keep pushing that selfishness until they end in the slave labor camps of sin – a form of living death. Do not believe that a person can just keep getting drunk with no consequences. Do not believe that a person can just keep being involved in illicit sexual activity without consequences. Do not believe that a person can keep participating in get-rich-quick schemes without consequences. There are huge consequences – it is called in this passage: death... a separation from life.
The most obvious consequence is the death of key relationships – with spouse, with children, with others. One cannot just keep pursuing these selfish forms of "entertainment" without doing irreparable damage to something. It is we who are a part of the church who must seek to help these people. We must do what is necessary to try and hold them back before they move deeper into this destruction. This rescuing behavior is a part of our God-ordained mandate. We cannot just say that is the choice that they have made. Clearly it is the choice they want to make, but it is a choice of death.
When a selfish choice I am trying to make or continue making will destroy me, I would expect those people around me who love me to try and stop me. I realize that some people do not want to be stopped and run away from all those who love them so they can pursue their selfish pursuits, but we must try and deliver them. Also, it is important that we be ready to deliver them when those momentary episodes of sanity come to them.
I must hasten to add that at times one must let the person who is intent of pursuing a course of death have their fill of this living hell.
As a parent it is important that we understand this truth in the light of parenting. We must have a strategy of protecting our children against the alluring advertising of various kinds of death that will assault our children's minds. While we want to keep them away from all these temptations, this cannot be the complete strategy for a parent as they will grow up and be exposed to these temptations.
We must explain the end result of these choices. We must help our children make wise choices and understand the nature of wise choices. We must admit the power of the temptations. We must help our children see the whole course of the disease called selfishness and sin, so they will not be duped into believing the temptation about the beginning of the process. Sin and selfishness have a very bright beginning but a predictably lonely, depressing, dark, dissatisfied, empty ending that is never talked about during the tempting phase. It is righteousness that has the wonderful ending. It is righteousness with its sacrifice on the front end that shines brighter and brighter like the noon day at the end. It is righteousness that adds more and more relationships and does not burden the individual with guilt and impulses and collateral damage.
When my girls go to college, even at a Christian school, there will be people who will move strongly in the direction of selfish sinful activities that will destroy them. I want my girls to be prepared for the strong feelings of temptation that will come at those times. Your parents aren't here – go ahead, you're free. I want them to understand that this is the way of death. The girls must not join them, but they must also rescue others if they can.
Let me also say that there will be cases where you desperately want to rescue someone, but you will be pulled in the direction of selfishness and sin as you are rescuing the other person. Do not allow yourself to be sucked in no matter how much you desperately want to keep someone else from this fate. Your relationship with a person, your love for a particular person, their pleas for your help cannot be allowed to pull you into the cycle of death.
Also, remember that people who you rescue must in some way want to be rescued. Unless you are in a position of authority over a person, one cannot help a person who does not want in some way to be helped.
Let me talk to parents a little more about this destruction pathway that some of your children may be on. If your children have friends who are into these forms of destruction, then they are trying to take your children to the death they are experiencing. Do what you can to do a “friendectomy” in these cases. Work hard at making sure that your children have positive role models that they will listen to and healthy alternatives to the pathway to death. Remember that this is what this proverb is talking about – how do I keep my children from going down the pathway to the slaughter? Deliver them from this pathway. With all the open and accepted pathways of destruction, parenting is a difficult task; but love and positive direction go a long way...
I have to say how thankful I am to watch as my girls really are trying to live out this verse. They are concerned by the actions and choices of some of their acquaintances and friends. We talk about how to help them without being sucked in themselves. Right now my daughter’s compassionate heart is reaching out to help those she sees making these destructive choices, and she wants to help them. I am so proud of her for this attitude and her prayers and work on their behalf. It is very difficult for her to see her friends making train-wreck choices and ignoring her help and counsel, but sometimes they just won't listen. It is important that our children see this reality also – that sometimes people choose the pathway of death even over your best arguments and prayers.