Revenge: It may be one of life’s subtle temptations. All of us, probably at one time or another, have wanted to get even for being mistreated. Maybe it was because an employer promised you something and never came through. Maybe your spouse or mate walked out on you when you needed him/her the most. Maybe it was a parent who failed you or someone in the church who hurt you or has not appreciated your efforts. And now you are waiting for the chance to get even or you are seething inside because you are holding a grudge.
“It costs more to revenge injuries, than to bear them,” wrote Thomas Wilson. In the Old Testament we read where David was wronged by his superior, King Saul. Even though David had been a devoted servant, Saul became so intensely jealous of him, that he plotted to kill him. At first he just put him in the frontlines of battle. He gave David the most difficult assignments hoping he might become a casualty of war. But when David continually came home as the conquering hero, Saul became so outraged that he actually threw a spear at his young musician in an attempt to kill him. David sidestepped the spear and just excused Saul on the basis of his mental illness.
Saul would not give up and he sends an army of soldiers out after David to do him in once and for all. And David becomes a fugitive—he’s on the run for the next 8 years.
Now, if there was ever someone you think would be mistreated, it was David. He had been anointed by God’s own prophet, Samuel, to be king. He had courageously displayed his faith in fighting Goliath—so, David, a man after God’s own heart, is hunted down like an animal by Saul’s troops. Just think how angry and resentful David must have felt. Everything that had been precious to him had been stripped away because of Saul.
But, King David is one of the greatest examples of bearing injuries, while refusing to take revenge, says Joshua 11: “When David saw his chance to kill Saul, he didn’t. His friends tried to make David kill Saul with his spear.”
Put yourself in David’s shoes. A jealous madman is hunting you like an animal. You are living in caves, dodging spies and wondering if you’ll live to see another day. Then, you find yourself with an opportunity to take him out. Although David knew the prophet Samuel had anointed him to be king of Israel, he refused to take the kingdom by his own hand. He waited for God to depose King Saul. David said he would not touch the Lord’s anointed.
It’s so easy to justify taking matters into our own hands when we’ve been wronged. We erroneously believe we have the right to strike back. Do we look to God when someone wrongs us? Is God big enough to handle our enemies? Is he big enough that we can pray for our enemies? Can we treat them with kindness? Only God can expand our hearts. It’s no accident that God called David a man after his own heart.
Let God be God and watch him work. The saddest part of revenge is that it puts us on the same level as those who have wronged us. God very clearly commands us through the Bible that if there is to be any ‘getting even’, we are to leave it for him to do. Why is God so adamant about resisting this temptation? Because he knows what it does to us and others. He knows the resentment that poisons us and the pain we inflict upon others by getting even, is never in anyone’s best interest.
Two Christian psychiatrists made this statement: “There is only one unconscious motive for retaining anger or for holding grudges, and that single motive is vengeance.” We hold it and will not turn it loose. Why? It is a matter of vengeance: “I am going to get even with you.” That is something we really need to check in our hearts.
First John 4:7 says: “My dear friends, we must love each other. Love comes from God and when we love each other, it shows that we have been given new life.” A person who carries animosity in his heart toward another believer, does not have a whole lot of assurance of his own salvation. Now watch—I did not say “Lost his salvation”. The Holy Spirit of God is not going to witness to your son when at the same time, your heart is filled with anger. Those who have hatred and animosity, do not have a lot of assurance in their heart. You lose that—you must be serious.
Do you know that holding onto vengeance will cost you broken health? Proverbs 14:29 says, “It’s smart to be patient, but it’s stupid to lose your temper.” Vengeance festers within and poisons our spirits when we hold grudges or take revenge. We become no better than those who hurt us.
Rick Warren said, “If you don’t release those who hurt you, you will begin to resemble them.” We only hurt ourselves when we take matters into our own hands. We lose God’s peace and sink to the depths of the hurter instead of becoming a healer. Sir Francis Bacon said, “In taking revenge a man isn’t even with his enemy, he is only as low as they. But in passing over it, he becomes superior, for it is a prince’s part to pardon.”
Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Only fools get angry quickly and hold a grudge.” But, keep your mind on the goal and remember God has the last word. Our motto needs to be: “Don’t lash out—leave it to the Lord.” Remember what God’s Word says in Romans 12:18: “Do your best to live at peace with everyone.”