By Pastor Phil
The question was first asked in the Garden of Eden: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain had murdered his brother and when God asked, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain tried to dodge the truth of his guilt by responding with his now infamous question. Implied in Cain’s response was this excuse: “It’s not my problem. I’m not my brother’s keeper. Why should I care where he is or what happens to him?” The truth for Cain and for all of us is simply this: You may not be your brother’s keeper, but you are his brother!
There is a responsibility that all of us have, one toward the other, simply because we are human beings, created in the image of God. We call it the brotherhood of man. With that in mind, hear the instruction of Proverbs, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” Proverbs 24:11-12
The writer is telling us we have a social responsibility to each other as human beings. If we see someone in trouble, being led to their death, trapped in circumstances that are literally destroying them, we have a responsibility to act. Whether it is children dying from starvation on the other side of the world, or innocent people fleeing terrorists in the Middle East or in Africa, or victims of human trafficking in Oklahoma, we cannot turn a blind eye to the desperate and dying that are all around us. We can’t act as if it isn’t happening in our world. We must take a stand and do whatever it takes to rescue them from death. After all, that person is your brother or sister.
I believe the writer is also reminding us of our spiritual responsibility. We must rescue those being led away to their spiritual and eternal death. They may be physically well fed, but they may be on the verge of dying from spiritual starvation. Those who haven’t heard the gospel, those who are bound in sin and addiction, those being deceived and unable to recognize God’s truth, we have a responsibility and duty to rescue them. One older translation of the verse reads, “Deliver those that are being led away to death, and redeem those that are appointed to be slain; spare not to help them.” While the enemy has appointed them to be slain, we have been commissioned to bring the good news of Christ to them. He is the only one who can redeem them and give them life. “Spare not to help them” the translation says. In other words, spare no expense, spare no effort, make whatever sacrifices are necessary to reach them in time and save them.
Notice the writer of Proverbs anticipated our response. “But we knew nothing about this! We didn’t realize there was a problem.” Ignorance is no excuse. Besides, neither the Lord nor the writer of Proverbs is buying that argument. We can’t pretend we don’t recognize how broken our world is. We know it. The one who weighs our heart knows it as well. We mustn’t turn away from the need. We have a responsibility to God our Father to rescue as many as we can. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. No wonder he says to us, “spare not to help them.” Regardless of the cost, regardless of the sacrifice, we must do all we can for as long as we can to rescue those being led away to death. Don’t give up. Someone is counting on you.
From The Message Bible: “Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my business,’ will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know – Someone not impressed with weak excuses.”
Lord, help me to be quick and bold to step in and help those who are perishing. Open the eyes of my heart to see that eternity is at stake and time is short. Forgive me for weak excuses. Grant me strength to work until the work is done. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.