Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 25:26
"Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked"
The word gives way is the Hebrew word mote which means to totter, shake or slip. The power of wickedness to run over the righteous is what Solomon is talking about. Let’s have a talk about basic definitions. When we are talking about righteousness here in Proverbs, we are not usually talking about ultimate perfect righteousness which qualifies a person for heaven (that was only obtained by Jesus the Christ). Occasionally this ultimate form of righteousness does come up and Solomon lets us know that no one has this form of righteousness. The righteousness we are talking about here in this proverb is right living: living so we do not damage others; living so that we are pleasing to God in our human dealings. This could be classified as human righteousness – the way to live that keeps people functioning well personally and collectively. This form of righteousness means that the individuals conduct themselves within the moral boundaries of the Ten Commandments. A shorter form of this kind of righteousness is encapsulated in the common moral slogan: “Do good and do no harm.” This is what Solomon is talking about here – when a person who does good for his fellow man and does not harm people.
Let’s go back to basic definitions. Wickedness is living beyond the boundaries of the Ten Commandments which means that you gain at other’s expense. A wicked person is a person who profits through abusing others. In other words, a wicked person is someone who has “discovered” a way to profit or gain something they want, and the only problem is that some people are damaged by the process of their getting what they want. Now if we are really looking out for what is best for the society or for the individuals, then when those kinds of profit centers are found, they should be stopped. It doesn’t matter if it is a well-known business or a well-known person, damaging others for personal gain should be stopped. I just heard of a business that was making millions of dollars through selling lumber that was laced with cancer-causing chemicals because it was cheaper to make. That business is being prosecuted for putting thousands of lives in danger. That factory has been shut down.
Solomon writes with the background of the Ten Commandments in his head as the basic definition of righteousness and the line where wickedness begins. Let’s go down through the Ten Commandments and name the form of abuse that is being prohibited. A wicked person is someone who profits or gains through spiritual abuse, verbal abuse, employee abuse, rebellion, illegal activity, violence or the threat of violence, sexual abuse, stealing, fraud, deception, lying, scheming against someone. This is what wickedness is biblically. Unfortunately our culture says that wickedness is something emotionally reprehensible. Even our Supreme Court has said that if something is no longer emotionally reprehensible, then it is no longer wrong. But our emotionality is not what makes something wrong or wicked. What makes something wrong is when someone or some group profits through the destruction of others. There are tragic stories down through history where groups in power have used their power to gain what they want at the expense of others, and it is always evil. It is a people’s sense of biblical morality that should make them stop, but they do not in many cases. The profit is just too alluring. It is the ability of any individual with a Bible and proof of destruction that allows us to self-correct.
Let’s look at this in an individual sense. There are people who are 98% wonderful but 2% wicked, and they are wrong even though they clean up nice. In our day we have seen the Bernie Madoffs who have fleeced millions of dollars from people while he partied and lived the high life. He was wicked biblically. We have seen Bill Cosby who entertained millions while using his prestige to drug and rape dozens of women. He is a monster even though he was winning awards. We have seen Jared Fogle who has a heartwarming story about weight loss but at some point he became wicked as he sexually preyed on children. We have seen pastors like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker who have preached powerfully, and at some point they became sexually and financially abusive to get what they wanted or keep what they built. They became wicked. We have to be able to call out wickedness when we see it.
Solomon says in this proverb that in order for wickedness to flourish, righteous people have to give room for it to operate. This is happening all over the place in every form of abuse. The wicked are establishing themselves throughout the country. They are building their profit centers and pleasure places and destroying people’s lives, and we are applauding them for how successful they are becoming. I am appalled at the number of elected officials who have turned a blind eye to the damage that pornography, gambling, prostitution, unscrupulous business practices, and homosexuality are doing to people. These things are wickedness in that they produce gain for the few, while destroying many others. If we are to have a just society, we must say: No, I will not say that is okay. No, I will not let that happen in my company. No, I will not let that happen in my church, in my battalion, in my home. It is wickedness. If our society continues to permit the few to gain while others are being destroyed or damaged, we will be judged by God most severely.
Solomon says that your own personal righteousness will be polluted if you do not clearly say no to the forms of wickedness that want to operate in the areas that you have jurisdiction over. You may not be able to control all the areas that you would like, but you do need to eliminate wickedness in the areas that you do control. Then your righteousness will not be polluted. Solomon is not saying that you need to be a crusader against every form of wickedness in your world, but he is saying that you should not allow unrighteousness where you have a choice in the matter.