Let’s take a look at Proverbs 29:24 for a moment and consider criminal justice. We all know that there are people in this world that do bad things, right? This is not in doubt. Even right now, in the backlash of major tornado disasters, law enforcement agencies are fending off looters and charity scammers. That’s right: people are willing to steal from families who have lost loved ones and homes. The implications of this on how you see “human nature” need another post to develop.
Instead, let us focus on the individuals here. First, we see a thief, but the thief is immediately discarded. Outright stealing is obviously wrong, based on a Biblical ethical worldview. Theft is one of those issues that is so plain it does not receive much discussion. After all, once you say something is wrong in the first 10% of the book, why harp on it? Recipes don’t constantly remind you to preheat the oven, do they? No. Something clearly defined as “sin” in Genesis-Exodus stands unless explained later as not sin.
The issue at stake is not the thief, who will face punishment. The issue is the partner. The lookout, the getaway driver, the fence, or just the motivator. That person? He’s participating to his own hurt as well. Why? Because he will allow sin in the community to go undiscovered.
Keeping the secrets of the lawbreaker is condemned here. The context is that the whole community would hear an oath pronounced that the truth should be disclosed. But the partner ignores that oath, ignores the call for disclosure. Perhaps he would answer a direct question, but he’s not volunteering anything.
How does this apply? First, of course, don’t partner with thieves.
There is a larger issue to consider: when we know of sin in the community, do we have a duty to address it? I think Solomon is stressing that yes, we do have that duty. There are cases where that explicitly means law enforcement, but others where it is simply that we must disclose what we know.
After all, there is no greater thievery than those who steal the innocence of children or the truth from the lives of others, is there? Those who steal joy through oppression or steal faith through abusive behavior?
Do not partner with these thieves by staying silent. Find the right place and tell the truth, if for no other reason than your own life and soul.