While orphans, widows, and abortion-vulnerable children are all “in distress”—and generally “unwanted” by society at large——the circumstances surrounding their distress are very different. It is one thing to provide food and shelter for people in need, and quite another to actively intervene for people who are about to be killed. Perhaps you wonder if the Bible actually mandates our involvement in these more extreme circumstances, where the price of engagement is generally much higher, and the level of opposition is far more significant. Here enters Proverbs 24:11-12:
Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay each man according to his work?
Like almost all Biblical proverbs, the text gives us no indication as to what specific injustice, if any, the author has in mind. It serves as a general guideline for what God’s people are called to do in the face of violent injustice. If innocent human beings are in danger, God-fearing people are to come to their rescue.
This proverb becomes even more poignant in light of verse 12. The author anticipates circumstances in which injustice will be cloaked to such an extent that people, with some plausibility, will be able to deny that they had any knowledge of it. We are warned against taking up such an excuse and reminded that God knows our every thought. False claims of ignorance will do us no good on the day of judgment.
Let us ask ourselves then, are there people among us, right here in America, who are stumbling towards the slaughter? Are there injustices in our day that God would have us raise our voices against? Yes, and yes. Abortions occur thousands of times a day, affecting nearly every community in the nation, yet most Christians barely give it a thought. We know it’s happening; we know it’s bad; but we seem content to remain as uninformed as possible, as if a general ignorance on the subject will somehow clear us of moral responsibility. According to Proverbs 24, this is a very dangerous line of reasoning to take.
God knows our hearts, and he will repay each of us according to the work we’re doing (or not doing) to rescue those who would otherwise be slaughtered. And just in case you feel the word “slaughter” is too severe to apply to abortion, think again. “Slaughter” is defined as either “the brutal or violent killing of a person,” or “the killing of great numbers of people.”5 Abortion fits both definitions. It’s hard to imagine a death more brutal or violent than having your body literally torn to pieces. And if the more than 50 million American children who have already lost their lives to legal abortion don’t qualify as “great numbers of people,” then the term is meaningless. Can any of us point to another injustice, happening in America today, for which Proverbs 24 would be more applicable?
You may want to print this one out and grab a cup of coffee. It’s that good, and it’s that necessary to read the whole thing.
What did you think?