The Folly of Revenge

A tenant farmer had worked hard for many years to improve the production of the farmland that 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 very 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. The very next morning the owner was again at the farmer’s door. He said, “My son came over 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 couldn't 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.”

Unfortunately, much of the bitterness I see in people is not directed toward “enemies,” but toward family members. Yes, when someone is a victim of abuse the road to forgiving the abuser can be long and complicated.  Even in those situations it is important to get rid of
bitterness and not seek revenge. However, many of the bitter attitudes people have toward members of their family have nothing to do with abuse. Insensitive remarks, broken promises and simple misunderstandings can all be very hurtful and can all be occasions for bitterness. Yet, choosing to seek revenge against a parent or sibling will only do further harm to the relationship and will likely be a choice you someday regret.

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.”

Yours, asking God to keep me from the folly of revenge,
Rev.  Dan Erickson, Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church

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