Doing Odd Things to Get Even

Have you heard of someone cutting off their nose to spite their face? In an effort to get back at others, or teach somebody a lesson, people often wind up inflicting a lot of pain on themselves. Suicide bombers are a case in point. The bitterness and hatred that could lead a person to blow himself up just to harm those that (he thinks) have harmed him, reveals human vengeance for what it is: self-centeredness gone stupid.

In Genesis 34,  there is the record of Shechem, a prince of the Hivite people, violating Dinah the daughter of Jacob. To avenge their sister, Dinah's brothers Simeon and Levi devised an evil plan against Shechem and his people. They told Shechem that he could marry their sister if he and his men were circumcised. Shechem agreed. Genesis 34:25  states, "Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males." While this vengeful atrocity appears at first to have evened the score, it did not. By their vigilante justice, Simeon and Levi made many enemies for their family from among the people of the land -- they had cut off their own nose, in a manner of speaking. "Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, 'You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I." (Genesis 34:30). Chapter thirty-five of Genesis goes on to tell how that it was only by God's protection that Jacob's family was able to safely flee to Bethel.

Vengeance does not belong to men; it belongs to God. "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 12:19).

There appear to be any number of reasons that God has not given individuals the right to avenge themselves. For one, we aren't wise enough to determine who deserves to be punished. Nor are we very good at deciding the appropriate degree of punishment to be inflicted. This is especially true when we are personally involved in a situation. Our judgment is imperfect at best, and often clouded by self-serving prejudice. But another reason we haven't been given the right to take vengeance for ourselves, and the main point of this article, is that our efforts to even a score are often so badly botched that they wind up hurting us more than anyone. Truly, "Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him" (Proverbs 26:27). Let us give place to the wrath of God. "He will repay my enemies for their evil" (Psalm 54:5).