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What the Bible says about Insults, Ignoring
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Ecclesiastes 7:20-22

"Others" here is referring to another person; it could even refer to a stranger. What Solomon is giving us in this section (verses 15-29) is counsel for balanced living.

Verse 20 shows that no one on earth does what is right all the time, never making a mistake. It is the character of a just man to do good, but that is not what always happens.

Then verse 21 begins with the word "also," which means "in addition," "likewise," "too," "in like manner," and "furthermore," suggesting that verses 21-22 continue the thought of verse 20. In just about every situation, sin is involved. Either we have sinned or others have sinned against us—or both.

Solomon advises us not to pay attention to or take to heart everything people say, even if we hear an employee or someone under our authority insulting us—because we know that we have insulted other people many times.

Understanding the word "curse" is important here. It does not mean "to invoke or bring evil or misfortune upon" or "to damn." It is the Hebrew word qalal, which means "to make light, trifling, bring into contempt, abate." Our English word abate means "to make less," "to reduce in quantity, value, degree, or intensity," "to beat down," and even "to deprive."

These verses do not give specific examples of what might have been said. Perhaps it was a defaming remark, an unwarranted comment, an angry threat, a joke at another's expense, or deliberate untruths. What was said is ultimately unimportant.

Baptist commentator John Gill (1697-1771) writes in his Exposition of the Old Testament on verse 21:

Seeing so it is, that imperfection attends the best of men, no man is wise at all times, foolish words and unguarded expressions will sometimes drop from him, which it is better to take no notice of; they should not be strictly attended to, and closely examined, since they will not bear it. A man should not listen to everything that is said of himself or others; he should not curiously inquire what men say of him; and what he himself hears he should take no notice of; it is often best to let it pass, and not call it over again; to feign the hearing of a thing, or make as if you did not hear it; for oftentimes, by rehearsing a matter, or taking up words spoken, a deal of trouble and mischief follows.

In the face of provocation, the true quality of self-restraint is displayed in our ability to take it patiently with forbearance and longsuffering. A person who is longsuffering is not quick to retaliate or promptly punish someone who has insulted, offended, or harmed him.

Ted E. Bowling
Sticks and Stones

Matthew 5:38-42

Normally and customarily, self-defense is a legal right in virtually every nation on earth, but in the Christian's case, God says, "No, it is not a right. There is a better way to do things."

Notice verse 39: "But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." He speaks of a slap, something every culture views as insulting rather than damaging. It may do damage to the person's ego, but it is not something ordinarily intended to harm. Rather, it is intended to put down. Not only does a person get a slap on the right cheek, even worse is to be backhanded on the left (most people are right-handed). A whack with the back of the hand is even more insulting than the first slap with an open palm.

Jesus is trying to open our minds to something here. He is describing cases involving offense or insult. Such insults or offenses may not come by means of an actual slap but through gossip or maybe by being taken advantage of at work. The boss finds out that you are a good worker, so he piles more on you than you can actually handle. Then your good attitude begins to sour because the boss is taking advantage of you, and you begin to feel offended.

The first action (or reaction) in such cases is usually to retaliate, or to get even in some way—to get some measure of satisfaction. "It's our natural right, isn't it?" we might argue. Natural, yes, but spiritual, no!

God instructs us to submit because He is teaching a Christian to think in a certain way: to think of his duties, his responsibilities, not his privileges. To whom are our duties and responsibilities? They are to God, not to the self. Our first responsibility is always to God. The first and great commandment is toward Him (Matthew 22:37-38). The second is toward ourselves and others (Matthew 22:39). He is telling us, then, to submit to Him in instances in which we are insulted.

He wants us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). It takes two to fight, and when one refuses, the fight usually goes out of the other person quickly. They may not lose their anger, but the fight usually stops. Once peace begins to be restored, then a Christian can appeal his case and begin to work matters out.

This passage shows us that we are to make a certain kind of response. We can do it either as a grim duty to be resented or as a service gladly rendered. We need to do it, not so much for the other person's benefit, but for God's—out of deep respect and godly fear. We thus have a choice as to how we can respond. Jesus has instructed us about how He wants us to respond. He wants us to be willing to go the extra mile.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


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