At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
He that covereth a transgression seeketh love;Proverbs 17:9
But he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.
One time, in the course of a church controversy, I was accused of “covering something up.” But as we have learned in other contexts, you cannot determine virtue or vice by looking at the verb only. What is being covered up? Why is it being covered up? Is the murderer trying cover up the telltale indicators of his crime (Prov. 28:13)? Or is it love, trying, yet again, to cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8; cf. Prov. 10:12)? In that particular church controversy, I remember saying to someone that I was a pastor, and that I cover up sins for a living.
But it should go without saying that some things that are covered up need to be brought out into the open. “Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Luke 12:3). The devil picks this up by the wrong end, which is how he became the accuser of all the brethren (Rev. 12:10), accusing them day and night. This censorious spirit may operate in the name of “transparency” or “accountability,” but what it is really after is the opportunity to point a finger and demand an answer now. The reason sinners like to do this is because, outside of Christ, the best defense is a good offense.
So in this proverb, the one who covers a transgression is the one who is seeking the path of love. This is how Joseph responded when he found out that Mary was pregnant. He knew that he was not the father, and so it followed that Mary had been unfaithful. “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly” (Matt. 1:19, ESV).
But in the world of hectoring accusers, the thing that made Matthew say that Joseph was a just man is the very same thing that makes accusers say that he was manifestly unjust. Was he not being indulgent? Was he not covering up? They would have told someone about it. They would have repeated the matter. And the proverb tells us that they are the kind of people who wreck friendships.
This proverb is part of wisdom literature, which is why it takes wisdom to be able to distinguish a righteous and an unrighteous revealing, a righteous and unrighteous “covering.” Every wise parent knows this. There are times when you would discipline your children for “tattling,” and other times you would discipline them for not saying something. For example, if your three-year-old is on the roof of the garage, you really want the older kids to say something.