The accomplice of a thief is his own enemy; he is put under oath and dare not testify. Proverbs 29, verse 24.
Other versions of the Bible don’t say “is his own enemy.” Other versions say “hates his own soul.” The ‘original’ King James version of the verse is, “Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewareth it not.” That’s pretty heady language. Hate is a word we shouldn’t throw around lightly. I hate Mondays; I hate cauliflower; I hate Fox News; I hate my clothes; I hate sheets that aren’t Egyptian cotton; I hate this show; I hate my job: do we really hate these kinds of things or are we being too dramatic, trivializing a word that isn’t meant for trivia?
Can you hate your own soul? Absolutely. Can you hate bed sheets? I’m guessing hyperbole. But your soul and what grieves it? Yes we can (and that isn’t hope you can believe in).
See, you can’t be a person of conscience and do something like covering up someone else’s crimes and not hate your own soul. It just doesn’t work that way; we aren’t wired for that. It’s bad enough to do things that you know are wrong and regret, but to know and condone someone else’s indiscretions chips away at your soul. It erodes your integrity, gnaws at your sense of right and wrong. It’s like a thread that the enemy can use against you, pulling it to unravel the fabric of what makes you into you. Should it be any surprise, then, that you would hate your own soul if you helped someone else feed their pet sins?
Yes, I know the verse talks only about thieves, but isn’t all sin stealing? Just as all sin is idolatry, murder, disobedience and coveting, I’ve come to see all sin as a form of stealing. We steal goodness. We steal the righteousness, reputation, or something else from other people, and we try to steal it from God. Bad language? Stealing decency. Adultery? Stealing fidelity. Hatred? Stealing peace and love. Lying? Stealing the truth. See the pattern? At the very least, when we do wrong, we sully God in the eyes of men. Our sins make us thieves. I’ve always thought most thieves secretly despise themselves because stealing is the physical manifestation of envy. Is it any wonder that thieves and those who help them would hate who they have become inside?
And what about that part about being under oath. It’s true, and in the view that all sin is stealing, I think it sounds so much more condemning. I’ve never been sworn to oath in a trial, but I have given depositions, and I have sworn other oaths and taken vows. In violating those vows or oaths, I immediately knew the depth of my guilt. Sometimes it was more than I could bear. Again, you can’t be a person of conscience, even a dulled or bruised conscience, and not feel the weight of your wrongs. If you’re confronted, what will you say? When the truth comes out, it will hurt a lot. If you keep quiet, you’re tortured in silence. If you aren’t asked at all, then you’ve doubled down on your stress. It’s a no-win situation.
Perhaps the best option is simply to not play the game. Perhaps the best option is a better way. You know what that is. Hope and change apart from God are simply meaningless political rhetoric. In God they are the promise of life. We don’t have to steal; we can turn from our sins and learn from them. The cure for the common sin is Christ, and in Christ all things are possible. Hatred can be turned to love; thievery to giving; despair to rejoicing; guilt to innocence. Does that mean that getting Jesus in your life makes everything better? Actually, yes it does, and if you examine your life and your feelings, I believe you’ll admit that truth. Maybe it starts with your outlook, or peace of mind. Perhaps He gives you love to heal your soul’s hurt. It could be that He’ll give you the strength to overcome your pet temptations and turn from your own sins. How He works on you will probably be different from how He works on me, but He works all the same. God Immanuel isn’t some wish factory, but He is real power in a real world.
And He can turn your heart and hand from stealing and enabling those who do. He did for me. John Lennon was only partly right: Give Him a chance, for He is real peace. He is peace for those who would steal and those whose hearts have been stolen. Take Him and take yours back.