Strike Back or Hold Back?
Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others (v. 1).
Hakkul, a snake charmer, opened three bags of snakes in a government office. Many of the serpents remained tangled together in a knot. Others advanced toward the office workers who had hopped up on desks or huddled together awaiting help. Apparently, Hakkul was angry because officials had not responded to his request for land on which to house his snakes. “Having waited patiently for [2 years],” he said, “I had no option but to leave all my snakes in this office.”
I see some similarities between Hakkul’s story and that of Haman in the book of Esther. The trouble began when Mordecai, a Jew living in Persia, refused to bow down to Haman as all the other officials did (Esther 3:2). Haman, a big shot in King Xerxes’ administration, noticed this and “was filled with rage” (Esther 3:5). So he planned to strike back at every Jew in Persia (Esther 3:6) by committing genocide. In the end, the Jews were saved and Haman died the death he had planned for Mordecai (Esther 7:10).
Though Haman ended up dead, and Hakkul merely ended up in the news, they both followed the same path to unhappy endings. An offense led to anger, which inspired revenge. To avoid this kind of escalation, the Bible advises us to “turn the other cheek” when we’re mistreated (Luke 6:29). If we do become angry, we’re not supposed to transgress by letting anger control us (Ephesians 4:26). God’s final safeguard against revenge is His command: “Never pay back evil with more evil” (Romans 12:17).
When people disregard our needs, fail to respect us, or otherwise offend us, we have a choice about how to respond. We can use venomous words and actions to strike back, or we can hold back—with God’s help—and let Him handle the offense (Romans 12:19). Holding back honors Him.
-Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Read Judges 16:28-30 to see how Samson’s death resulted from his quest for vengeance.
Why is it so difficult to respond to insults and anger in a way that honors God? How does taking revenge go against the golden rule? (Matthew 22:39).