Justifying the Wicked and Condemning the Just

By Arvin Himmel

God’s word teaches in Prov. 17:15, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.”

All responsible people fall into one of two categories. There are the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the bad, the just and the wicked. God approves righteousness but condemns wickedness. Some men have the reverse attitude; they defend wickedness and find fault with righteousness.

Justifying the Wicked

Here are some examples of how efforts are made to uphold wickedness:

1. The wicked are acquitted. When the prophet Samuel was old, he made his sons judges over Israel. However, they “walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment” (1 Sam. 8:1-3). Any wicked person with enough money could have bought his way out of trouble with these judges.

The law of Moses warned the judges and officers, “Thou shaft not wrest judgment; thou shaft not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous” (Deut. 16:19). This warning often went unheeded. During many periods of Israel’s history the magistrates and rulers set the wicked free in exchange for a “gift.”

Today, people who violate the law often escape punishment by bribes and by hiring smart attorneys who can find loopholes in the law or get a client set free on some legal technicality. There is no honor in the exoneration of criminals and lawbreakers.

2. Wickedness is whitewashed. Sometimes when sin is committed, attempts are made to justify the wicked by acting as if no wrong has been done. A person in an important position is found to be immoral, or one of high rank is proved to be guilty of gross misconduct, but in “Watergate” style the whole mess is quickly and quietly swept under the rug, any statements issued are vague and meaningless, and it is understood that no one is supposed to ask any questions.

Israel’s king David wanted to whitewash his sin, but God sent Nathan to David to let him know that all Israel would see the consequences of what the king had done secretly (2 Sam. 12:12). The scribes and Pharisees were so accustomed to whitewashing their sins that Jesus compared them to “whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27).

3. Sin is openly advocated. In the present generation numerous groups are loudly endorsing homosexuality, gambling, drinking, prostitution, and similar vices. There is widespread clamor for liberalized laws. Some in high governmental circles of influence have spoken in justification of practices explicitly condemned in the Bible. Courts are freeing the smut peddlers and prostitutes. Crime and immorality increase rapidly because wickedness is justified.

Condemning the Just

The following are a few ways in which the just are condemned:

1. The righteous are afflicted. In Isaiah’s time the leaders of Israel were “companions of thieves”; they loved gifts and acted for reward rather than in the interest of justice, therefore “they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them” (Isa. 1:23). Amos made a similar charge. He said the leaders “afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right” (Amos 5:12).

2. The righteous are falsely accused. Jesus our Lord did no sin but was accused and condemned to die. Although perfectly just, He was accused of “perverting the nation,” forbidding tribute to Caesar, and trying to set Himself up as king (Lk. 23:1,2). Paul, the righteous apostle to the Gentiles, was accused of being “a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes,” and one who had tried to profane the temple (Acts 24:1-6).

3. Just men are shown disrespect. Sometimes men condemn the just by acting with contempt toward the godly. In the church, God-fearing, mature elders are condemned sometimes by a disgruntled individual who did not get to have his personal way in a thing that is purely one of judgment. A young person who is immature and inexperienced ought to be very slow about condemning older men who are wise by reason of experience and many years of careful Bible study, especially if the area of disagreement is only a matter of human judgment.

In conclusion, consider the words of Isaiah: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him” (Isa. 5:20-23).

Truth Magazine XXI: 31, p. 482
August 11, 1977