Proverbs 24:11—Does this verse justify breaking the law to stop abortions?
Problem: Solomon urged here that we “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.” Does this justify illegal attempts to “rescue” babies by blocking pregnant women’s path into legal abortion clinics?
Solution: This passage does not justify breaking the laws of God-ordained human government (cf. Rom. 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13), even if we believe they are unjust laws. The only time believers are allowed to disobey the law is when it compels them to sin, not when it permits someone else to sin (see comments on Ex. 1:15–21). Otherwise, we would be obligated to block the doors to non-Christian churches or temples where they are sinning by worshiping false gods. We should disobey a law that compels us to worship idols (Dan. 3), but we should not disobey one that permits others to do so.
Furthermore, this text (Prov. 24) does not support illegal attempted “rescues” for several reasons. First, the chapter does not support civil disobedience; it commands civil obedience. It says, “fear the Lord and the king” (v. 21), and fear implies obedience to His commands (cf. Rom. 13:1, 3 and Titus 3:1). Second, those being led away to death (24:11) are victims of those breaking the law; they were not the lawbreakers. In other words, they were being carried away contrary to the law, whereas legal abortion is occurring in accordance with the law.
There is no indication in this passage (or any other) that believers have the right to illegally take away the legal rights of others simply because they personally believe the laws are unjust. By the same illogic used by so-called “rescuers” we should block the path of anyone—judge, jury, or police—taking a lawbreaker to the place of legal sentence if we believe the conviction is unjust. Further, if it is right to “rescue” lives by blocking clinic doors, then why not rescue them by bombing clinics, destroying their power supplies, or even assassinating the doctors and nurses doing it. Perish the thought! The truth is that two wrongs do not make a right, and the end does not justify the means, whether it is an active or a passive means of disobeying God-ordained human government that has issued non-compulsory laws that permit others to sin.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.