Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 28:28
"When the wicked rise, men hide themselves; but when they perish, the righteous increase"
This is a fundamental truth in every society that each government and civilization wants to forget. If you give people so much freedom that they can be exceedingly selfish, you do not have a better society. You have a society in which the people who are trying to do good for others need to hide themselves.
This is the Hebrew word rasha which means wicked, criminal. The quick way to understand the definition of wickedness or wicked in the Bible is anything that is outside of God's boundary structures as given in the Ten Commandments.
Our current western civilization has embraced a virulent form of this disease in the last fifty years. The old norms of morality no longer apply – this is a modern era. We don't believe in a God who could give us rules. We get to invent the rules for ourselves.
We (our present culture) think that people can get away with a much higher level of personal selfishness without consequences. For instance, if you go down each of the Ten Commandments and look at how our western culture sees them, you can see that this culture has embraced wickedness:
We think that people can choose to worship any god they want to exalt; it doesn't matter.
We think that people can do any kind of religious rituals they want; it will make no difference in our society.
We think that people can be selfish in their conversation with one another and that it will not really impact others.
We think that people can work seven days a week – virtually nonstop – to become rich, famous, or powerful; and it will have no impact on our lives, our families, or our society as a whole.
We think that we can devalue people who are older and openly cultivate rebellion of authority and that these two things will improve our society.
We want to believe and have told ourselves that it is okay to surround people with images of violence and murder against women, children, rivals, and that society will be unaffected.
We embrace the myth that sexual unfaithfulness and perversion is a good thing for people.
Our culture has selfishly embraced "free" to the point that if something can be acquired free, it doesn't matter how you acquired it.
We as a culture believe that everyone has to lie to get ahead in our world.
We have as a culture embraced the idea that it is easier to take someone else's finished product, employee, spouse, company than to develop our own.
Each of these ways of thinking is beyond the Ten Commandments and allows the wicked to rise.
This kind of thinking causes people who are trying to do right to feel like they are not getting ahead. So they shrink back and do not push as hard to do what is right. They do not keep at it. The do not get the approval and rewards they should for injecting positive righteousness into the society.
Every society tries to maximize freedoms at the expense of order. At some point freedom becomes selfishness which causes others to lose. This is what the Bible calls wickedness.
Notice the second phrase of this proverb: but when they perish, the righteous increase. There must be a diminishing number of wicked people for the righteous to feel safe to be righteous. The positive impact of righteousness needs a cultivating environment to flourish. There can be individual righteous people. But there must be curbs on wickedness for righteousness to flourish.
There is a sense that to have a society in which love of neighbor and kindness are open parts of the community there must be significant restrictions on selfishness. Knowing what to restrict and what to allow is the art and science of government and morality.
Some things that seem small are actually significant wickedness. God has told us where the lines go in the Ten Commandments. In each case if the general tenor of the moral boundary is not followed, someone gains at another's expense.