When I read Proverbs 24:11-12 I am reminded of the famous statement by Martin Niemöller about the rise of Naziism:
First they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.
I know what Niemöller was trying to say, but his words leave me just a little cold. They seem to make an interest in justice a matter of self preservation – but that may be a bit harsh.
There is another quote that also comes to mind, this one attributed to Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” but this too doesn’t quite catch the flavor of Solomon’s words.
Solomon urges us to speak out in behalf of others, to come to the rescue of the needy and oppressed because it is the right thing to do, it is what God expects. More importantly, God holds us accountable for a socially apathetic attitude, and His punishment will be severe. While “this earth is not our home,” what happens here affects us, and how we respond may have eternal consequences.