The Folly of Revenge

There was once a tenant farmer who had worked hard for many years to improve the production of the farmland which he leased. One day the owner came to the farmer’s door. He said, “I’m sorry, but you and your family are going to have to move. I cannot renew the lease for next year. My son is getting married next month, and I promised him that once he had a family, I would give him this farm.”

The farmer was terribly upset. He made several generous offers to buy the farm himself, hoping the man's decision would be reversed. Each time, however, the offer was rejected. As the day drew near for the farmer to vacate his home, his weeks of angry brooding finally got the best of him. He gathered seeds from some of the most pesky and noxious weeds he could find. Then he spent many hours scattering them on the clean, fertile soil of the farm. He also took a lot of trash and stones he had previously collected and spread these around the fields. He did his best to poison the land and make sure it would not produce bountiful crops for the owner’s son.

Two weeks later the landowner was again at the farmer’s door. He said, “My son came to my house last night and told me that his wedding has been called off. He has decided to move to the city. I will be happy to either renew your lease or sell the farm to you.” He could not understand why the farmer exclaimed in agonizing tones, "Oh, Lord, what a fool I've been!" Friends, this story is a good reminder that when we seek revenge, we often end up hurting ourselves more than the other person.

Modern medicine has shown that emotions like bitterness and anger can cause problems such as headaches, backaches, allergic disorders, ulcers, high blood pressure, and heart attacks, to name just a few. Yet, whatever harm these attitudes do to our bodies, the damage to our souls is much worse. A soul which is full of bitterness has no room for grace and forgiveness. Someone who is intent on getting revenge also is attempting to usurp God’s authority. The Bible makes it clear that our job is to love our enemies, while it is God’s responsibility to see that justice is done. In Romans 12:19 we read, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

It can be very difficult when someone wrongs us and refuses to apologize or even acknowledge he or she is responsible for harm that may have occurred. In some cases, reconciliation, restored trust, and true forgiveness are not possible. The relationship with that other person may continue to be strained for a long period of time. Yet, in these situations it is especially important not to fall into the traps of bitterness and revenge. The farmer would have been much better off if he would have simply decided to “move on” or “let it go” when he learned the owner planned to give the land to his son.

Friend, are there people in your life that you are trying to “get back at?” If so, I am afraid that one day you, too, might find yourself saying, “Oh, Lord, what a fool I’ve been.”
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Dan Erickson

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