Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully. Proverbs 28, verse 5.
Have you ever been willing to take whatever happens to you just so long as you can hold your head up high again? I have. I get this verse, you see, because I’ve been there. And since we’ve been friends for awhile, I’m going to say that I bet you have too. I’m betting you are saying to yourself “well I’m not evil” but then when you walk away from this verse, you’ll think about it and it will bother you, if only just a little. After you’ve had a chance to ponder it, you’ll think “well, maybe I have done a few evil things” and it will still bother you.
Good. The disposition to evil lives in all of us. It is always lurking inside us, clouding our judgment and keeping us from being better. We know what’s right and wrong, yet somehow we always have an ability to do wrong. That doesn’t mean we do it, just that the possibility, indeed the probability, of doing wrong is always there beside us. It’s part of being human. It’s sin. And whether we like it or not, whether we admit or not, sin is evil. Evil separates us from God. Where this verse is concerned, it means that, when we let that disposition to evil take over, we don’t understand justice.
More than that, we don’t understand the right from the wrong. Ever wanted something so bad that you were willing to put up with the wrong aspects of it just to have a little bit of the right? Ever stayed in a bad relationship just because you wanted to feel wanted? Ever overlooked a bunch of bad things just so you could have some of the good? I hate to be all judgmental but the truth is that when you and I do this, we’re letting evil take a small foothold in us. We reject the right for the wrong; we reject the just for the unjust. We do those things because we believe the false comfort of the bad is better than the real comfort that seems out of our reach.
One of the sources I used to research this verse said “ignorance of moral truth is due to unwillingness to know it.” Amen because there is a level of conscious thought or action in denying evil. Not knowing isn’t an excuse; if you don’t believe me, try willingly going 60 in a 20 school zone and then explaining to the officer, “I didn’t know.” Whether our rebellion is open or subtle, it’s still rebellion. It’s lying to ourselves, and that’s bad enough. Even more, though, it’s a subtle form of idolatry, saying “I know better.” It’s a way to show the world “I know what I’m doing.” Really now? Really.
This is one of those lessons I want my kids to understand. As a dad, I want them to understand what’s right and wrong in this world and be able to turn to God to be the decider on how to tell the difference. I want them to see that, like their dad, their mom, and everyone they know, they are disposed to being lured by the temptations of petty evil into thinking they always know better. Disasters large and small are the only logical outcome when we put pride before love. When we unwittingly (or willingly) side with evil, we willingly ignore just love. Unhappiness rules; chaos beckons; hell awaits. Pretty harsh, isn’t it. I wish it weren’t true, but it is. It’s true in every walk of life. It’s one of the reasons I want my kids to learn the lesson well.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You and I can tame that nature; we just need some help. We need help from above to help us from within. If we’re going to seek the LORD, we need to ask for His help. When we do that, He walks right in. If you listen to your conscience, have you ever considered that maybe that’s God telling you what to do, making you aware of the right and wrong in your choices? If something seems wrong…it probably is. When those moments of choice come, when we are looking to determine what is the just thing, if we ask for help it is always given.
So what about earthly justice? The verse says that evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully. We all know about OJ, Casey Anthony, and dozens of other cases where the innocent appear to have suffered; we have each seen times when good seems trampled by evil. Where is the justice in that?
Here’s the ‘whoop’ answer (and you may not like it): who am I that you are mindful of me? Who am I that the God of the universe should even think of me? Hand in hand with that, then, is the admission that, who am I to presume to know what justice is when my pride is asking the question? Good does win out; evil is eventually vanquished. It’s just how things work. It isn’t up to me to decide who wins or loses, or who gets what I think they deserve. If it is, then when I mess up (even in something big) then I’m surrendering my ability to have someone else decide for me. In criminal justice that’s called “the system;” in the rest of life, I’m afraid you and I would call it ‘unfair.’
But it is fair and, like Mr. Cronkite said, “that’s the way it is.” When you sink low enough in your sins, and when the consequences of them overcome you enough, you see that it’s fair and you’re willing to put up with whatever happens just so it can be over, just so you can hold your head up again. That’s the point when you’re broken…and that’s the time when you’re open to God moving in and getting down to business.
That’s the time to realize that greater things are yet to come for you because you can finally seek the LORD and understand justice fully. Notice that it doesn’t say “find the LORD” but “seek.” We ‘seek’ because this is a journey we’re on and the journey matters. We seek to understand; we seek peace because where we sought peace when we were in evil only left our peace gauge on empty. We seek Him for help and He gives it. In our decrepitude He finds us and you & I realize that He was looking for us all along, staying with us even when we were turning our eyes away from His justice. Walter Cronkite, that’s the way it is, too.