are the righteous who give way to the wicked.
I did some study on this verse, and what the NIV translates as "give way" here, has the meaning of falling down in front of -- this can be a moral falling or a lack of accountability. Let me explain what I mean. . .
When a spring or a well has been muddied, or polluted, it's pretty much worthless at that point. You can't water your animals --- they'll turn up their noses sometimes. You can't draw water for your household --- who would want to drink it, or wash in it? It really isn't useful after it has become dirty.
I'm sure that everyone has seen or heard of a situation where a Christian of some renown, whether a pastor, and evangelist, or just a well-known layperson, has been caught in a moral "fail." Sometimes a major one. For a while, that's all you hear about: the sin, the why, the wherefore, the when, and lots of gory details. The newspapers, the blogs, and the networks have a field day mocking and denouncing the Christian faith. It sounds like the situation David the king found himself in, when the prophet Nathan told him, "by this deed thous hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme..." (II Samuel 12:14a, King James version)
Matthew Henry's commentary gives a second meaning to the verse. He notes that when a good man or woman, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is afraid to "call" the wicked on their sin, and instead is fearful to hold them accountable, then that person has "given way" to the wicked, and this verse applies to him or her. We've discussed before that there are ways to confront a person that God has placed in our pathway, so that we have an opportunity to witness. There are kind and gracious ways to do it --- but if instead, we turn away, or worse yet, condone the sin, then we will be held accountable for our omission. I've even known an unsaved person to point out that lack of witness in someone before; to them, it was a sign of hypocrisy.
We must remember what Jesus told us:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
If we deliberately do wrong, and fall, or if we deliberately refrain from witnessing, the world will grab that and look upon it as hypocrisy. We must be careful to keep our testimony "straight as an arrow" as Peter told us:
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:11-12)Let's be careful not to muddy the water!