Justice or Abomination

Proverbs 17:15

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.

A biblical view of justice involves a variety of things. Justice includes the proper application of the principles of God’s righteousness in the world. Justice involves proper punishment for wrongs done. Justice involves action taken to make whole or to repair things when a person is wronged.

Here in Proverbs 17:15, we are reading about aspects of justice perverted. And I would that these were merely Old Testament problems. But they are not. In point of fact, this proverb shows us problems that genuinely exist in our world today.

Many of the proverbs are written in a form of Hebrew poetry in which thoughts are set side-by-side. Sometimes a thought will repeat the same idea. Other times, a thought will teach us by putting two opposites near one another in a balanced contrast.

Feel the balance of the contrasting points of this proverb. We see two things that might seem opposite: justifying contrasted with condemning; wicked contrasted with righteous. But we see a connection, something that ties the two contrasts together. To justify the wicked and to condemn the righteous are both abominations in the sight of the Lord. God hates when both things happen.

What is this little word to the wise telling us? There is nothing good about ignoring when wickedness is done. A just judge must properly condemn the wicked actions of people. Just punishment, right retribution, must follow if the judge is to be pleasing to the Lord. No person should be acquitted of a crime simply because he is rich, or simply because he is poor. Right condemnation should fall on the one who does wickedness.

Similarly, to condemn the righteous is an equal abomination. There is no good, no justice, no righteousness in pronouncing a sentence of condemnation on someone who has not committed a crime. Regardless of whether the person is rich or poor, man or woman, weak or strong, we do not condemn a person rightly who is not guilty but righteous.

The point of the justice system for any people should be to do actual justice. That means that impartial judgment is rendered. Condemn the wicked, those actually guilty. Justify the righteous, refusing to punish people for crimes they did not commit. A society refusing to do justice in either direction is an abomination before the Lord.

Are there nuances that must apply in a discussion of justice? Of course. But, if we refuse to start with the principle laid out here in Proverbs, we cannot even begin to properly consider such nuances. For a society to function, we must begin with the belief that justice includes condemning the guilty and justifying the righteous. Belief systems that would punish people for crimes they did not commit is evil. A system that would look at a person proven guilty and choose to ignore that guilt is wrong. One might think that what I have just written is blatantly obvious, but, as our society continues to decline, the obvious needs to be clearly restated.