Thursday, September 17, 2009

What does the Bible say about getting revenge?

A Vindictive Attitude Hurts
Courtesy of

Of course, there are degrees of offense. But most people who want to get back at someone have not been mugged or criminally assaulted. The “offenses” quoted at the beginning of this article were rather insignificant, although they loomed large in the minds of the ones who decided to get even.

The Bible says that we should not cultivate a vengeful attitude. Proverbs 24:29 counsels: “Do not say: ‘Just as he did to me, so I am going to do to him.’” Why not? For one thing, such an attitude is emotionally and physically damaging. Vengeful thoughts take away peace of mind and hinder sound reasoning. Consider this news report: “Two farmers shooting from their pickup trucks killed each other in a parking lot, ending a 40-year feud that began when they were children.” Imagine, throughout their lives the thinking of these two men had been poisoned by a festering, vengeful spirit!—Proverbs 14:29, 30.

Another reason not to cultivate a vengeful spirit is that erring ones—even seriously erring ones—can change. The apostle Paul, for example, at one time ‘approved of the murder’ of the disciple Stephen and ‘breathed threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord.’ But he changed. Years later the apostle Peter—whose life had been in danger from Paul during that earlier time—called him “our beloved brother Paul.” (Acts 8:1; 9:1; 2 Peter 3:15) Christians could have tried to take revenge on Paul, especially when he was waiting, blind, in Damascus. (Acts 9:3-15) What a tragic mistake that would have been!

Paul could well counsel, therefore, at Romans 12:20: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” Why? Because if we avenge ourselves on an enemy, we harden his attitude and cement the enmity between us. But if we do good to one who offends or hurts us, we may soften his attitude and make a former enemy into a friend.

Recognizing our own weaknesses also helps in overcoming the bitterness that leads to a desire for revenge. The psalmist asked: “If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3) All of us have hurt or offended others. Were we not glad if they did not try to get even? Should we not, then, act with similar restraint? Jesus counseled: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”—Matthew 7:12.

True, the Bible says: “Hate what is bad.” (Psalm 97:10; Amos 5:15) But it does not tell us to hate the one doing the bad. In fact, Jesus commanded us: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.” (Matthew 5:44) If we repay injury for injury, we copy the spirit of the wrongdoer. The ancient proverb says: “Do not say: ‘I will pay back evil!’ Hope in Jehovah, and he will save you.” (Proverbs 20:22) What a wise attitude! How much better to show ourselves the winners by resisting the temptation to imitate wrongdoers.—John 16:33; Romans 12:17, 21.

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