Anyone who has reached adolescence is well aware that adversity is a fact of life. That is common knowledge but what’s not so apparent to most of us is the fact that scripturally we are all charged with specific responsibilities when faced with adversities. That may seem weird, and maybe a bit unbelievable, that God would lay this on us, but it’s a fact — he has.
Here’s the passage, judge for yourself. Proverbs 24:10-12, “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not.
Doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? And he that keepeth the soul, doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works?”
Now, let’s delve a bit deeper into this passage to discover what God is saying to us. We’ve already seen that adversity is a given, so the goal is to prevent it from prevailing in life. We’ll look at each verse individually.
God starts by showing us how certain attitudes contribute to prevailing adversity. In verse 10, he reminds us that if we “faint,” meaning idle or lazy, we fall into the attitude of doing nothing, the infamous “let-George-do-it” philosophy, hoping adversity will self-destruct if we just let it alone. That attitude is a symptom of reduced strength of character, “thy strength is small” in the text.
Verse 11 refers to our responsibility to deliver two groups of people from adversity: the unsaved, those “drawn unto death;” and, the saved backslider, those “ready (to waver or slip) to be slain.” The discussion of attitude continues into verse 12 where we are told that we often plead ignorance of the existence of adversity, seen in the phrase “if we say, we knew it not.”
That is to justify our lack of action and of a sense of responsibility. It also shouts loud and clear a lack of integrity, an indifference to the plight of others and the infamous I-don’t-want-to-get-involved attitude. God wants us to know that none of these negative attitudes goes unnoticed.
In the rest of the passage, God shares the consequences of these attitudes and of our failure to live up to our responsibilities to others. Notice that each verse begins with the word “if” which tells us that we are dealing with a conditional passage; where there is an “if,” there is always a “then.” So if we fail in our responsibilities, then the consequences kick in.
The consequence of our failure is introduced in verse 12 by the phrase “shall not he render to every man according to his works?” This appears in the text as a question, but it is actually a statement of fact, that we all will be rewarded according to our actions, or lack thereof; by our sense of responsibility, or lack thereof; or by our integrity, or lack thereof.
Our rewards will be diminished as we demonstrate inadequacies. The problem, as seen in verse 10, is a lack of inner strength or strength of character. The solution, as per Psalm 28:7, is to trust and focus on God for the inner strength we need to be victorious. He may not remove the adversity, but he will give us the strength and the courage to endure through it all.
Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in South Los Angeles.Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear monthly in The Wave and on its website, www.wavepublication.com.