What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
One could assume that the intent of this verse could be paraphrased, "Only a person who hates another would deliberately wound or hurt someone by lies." However, this verse really suggests, upon closer reading, that the very act of saying something negative about another will automatically reinforcethis belief.
In explaining this principle of reinforcement, psychologist George Weinberg states, "Every time you act, you add strength to the motivating idea behind what you've done." Weinberg describes graphically how hatred and resentment can be built from scratch:
At a party Ralph makes an offhand remark critical of a certain movie. When he first makes his remark, his attitude toward the movie is actually mild. He may even have liked it on the whole, and his remarks merely to display his cleverness. But he gets a surprise. Instead of just smiling at the gibe, someone at the party contradicts it. Ralph answers back. The other man rebuts again. Ralph attacks another aspect of the movie. The man is unmoved. Ralph tears into the other man's notorious bad taste. Ralph's basic attitude toward the movie has changed. Now he really hates it. At the next party he goes to, almost the first subject he brings up will be the movie, to attack it thoroughly.
As the hatred grows, Ralph's personality and character become sullen and ugly. His own tongue contaminates his very being. James 3:6 reveals, "[The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body" (The Amplified Bible). Verse 8 continues, "It is a restless (undisciplined, irreconcilable) evil, full of deadly poison."
David F. Maas
Purging the Rumor Bug from the Body of Christ
Some things are worthy of treasuring for the rest of our lives, while other things belong in the dumpster.
We all have the natural tendency to cling to what is familiar, even it if proves detrimental to us. Like those who have adopted the Depression mentality, we fearfully and tenaciously cling to self-defeating and destructive behaviors. Many individuals have collected injustices and grudges throughout the years, nursing them and keeping them alive long after the activating event has ceased. Spouses who have gone through an ugly divorce carry these malignancies to the grave after having infected their offspring with the same malignancy.
In his book, Weight Loss for the Mind, Stuart Wilde suggests that "letting go" is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks for a human being. He suggests that we instinctively "hang on to our family connections, to the certificate we got at school, to our money, we embrace and hang on to our children [sometimes attempting to micromanage their lives into adulthood], we lock our car and hang on to it." People may hang onto books, magazines, cassettes, records, shoes, egg cartons, plastic jugs, bottles, reusable cans, etc. If we keep these items long enough, we sentimentalize them, affectionately calling them antiques.
Henry David Thoreau in Walden compares our accumulated belongings to traps we carry around, suggesting
it is the same as if all these traps were buckled to a man's belt, and he could not move over the rough country where our lines are cast without dragging them—dragging his trap. He was a lucky fox that left his tail in the trap. The muskrat will gnaw his third leg off to be free. No wonder man has lost his elasticity.
The difficulty we have in freeing ourselves from physical clutter metaphorically parallels our difficulties getting rid of spiritual clutter. God's Word indicates, however, that we must make a full-fledged effort to rid ourselves of excess baggage. Notice Hebrews 12:1:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. . . .
Perennial and chronic sin constitutes the unwanted weight or obesity that we desperately desire to shed. This accumulative set of reinforced bad habits and transgressions the apostle Paul identifies as the "old man." He admonishes that we ought to slough off the "old man" like an accumulated mass of dead skin cells or an old discarded garment: ". . . that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Ephesians 4:22).
Paul gets more specific as he identifies particular obnoxious traits and qualities found in the old man—or our comfortable, old, carnal selves:
But now you must also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds. . . . (Colossians 3:8-9)
Dr. William V. Haney in his Communication and Organizational Behavior illustrates that people who hold negative or dysfunctional self-images tenaciously hold onto them, feeling their very "identities" to be at stake:
A man, for example, may regard himself as incompetent and worthless. He may feel that he is doing his job poorly in spite of favorable appraisals by the company. As long as he has these feelings about himself, he must deny any experiences which would not seem to fit this self-picture, in this case any that might indicate to him that he is competent. It is so necessary for him to maintain this self-picture that he is threatened by anything which would attempt to change it.
. . . This is why direct attempts to change this individual or change his self-picture are particularly threatening. He is forced to defend himself or to completely deny the experience. This denial of experience and defense of self-picture tend to bring on rigidity of behavior and create difficulties in personal adjustment. (3rd Edition, 1973, p. 88)
To hang on to this negative self-image rather than to conform to God's image (Romans 8:29) means to resurrect and hang onto the old man—with its obnoxious habits and behavior patterns. Some of these behavior patterns we may have reinforced so thoroughly that it has become part of us, somewhat like individuals who carry around benign or malignant tumors, accepting them as part of themselves, rather than a hideous and life-threatening alien growth.
David F. Maas
A Time to Throw Away
Probably all of us have thought that we know better than those in charge. Watch out! Thinking like this is not wrong in itself, but it is something that lodged itself in the mind of Helel (the name of the "covering cherub" before he became Satan): "I know better than the one in charge," and in this case, it was God.
We can begin to see how his pride was beginning to exalt itself against God. It was moving to break the relationship between them. It was coming between Helel and God so that their relationship could not continue. Helel could not continue to serve God.
Most have felt that we have been overlooked, neglected, or abused. Most of us have felt rejected a time or two. Of and by themselves, these feelings are not wrong. But, again, we must beware, because these feelings can begin to generate pride. Such a thing fed Helel's feelings about himself. They simmered in him and made him angry, and he desired to assert his will to control the governance of all that was happening. "I will ascend to heaven," he said, and he tried to. We see the pattern here; we can see the process involved from beginning to end.
It ends in warfare against God, which is why a person of pride cannot have a good relationship with Him. A proud person cannot have faith in God, at least not very much. A small amount of faith can be there, but pride will definitely be a hindrance. This is why the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18:9-14 follows immediately after of the Parable of the Importunate Widow (Luke 18:1-8), which Jesus ends with, "When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on earth?"—because humility is essential to faith.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Six)
Consider what he was. He was the pinnacle of what God can create by fiat. That is what is suggested in the wording of this passage - he was the "seal of perfection," the most perfect creation, full of wisdom and beauty. He was made with precious stones as part of his body. Music - beautiful music - was intrinsic to him. He had an exalted position as the "covering cherub." He walked where God ruled, amidst the fiery stones. He had it all. It should have been enough for him, but he began to think, "I'm still one step down from the top. I really don't have it all. I want to rise to the next level of management. I want to be the CEO of the universe. I think I'll overthrow God."
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Understanding our frame, God leans toward mercy. Three times He repeats, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; 12:7).
He gets personal about it as well. In Matthew 5:7, Jesus names mercy as one of the primary beatitudes, or "attitudes to be in": "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Here, in a very personal and positive setting, we begin to see mercy's cause-and-effect principle: Show mercy and you will obtain mercy.
Christ drew this principle from the attitude the unchangeable God has always maintained. Speaking of Him, the twin quotes from Psalm 18:25 and II Samuel 22:26 echo the beatitude: "With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful."
Not only is God of the mind to be merciful, He expects it of us, even requires it of us. Notice how the tenor of Micah 6:8 becomes more intense, though remaining positive: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" This moves from a simple cause-and-effect principle to an absolute requirement.
We need to examine Matthew 18 in this light. With mercy and forgiveness in mind, Christ outlines His instruction on how to deal with those who sin against us. We show mercy by not escalating the problem beyond the sinning individual, if possible. Discuss it with him alone! We are not to bandy about anyone's sins. Doing so only makes it more difficult for the offender to swallow his pride and repent, for, by admitting his wrong, he is "losing face" with many who know the story. The object—never forget—is to gain our brother, not to gain vengeance or vindication for ourselves.
If the offender does not listen, then we are to take one or two other witnesses. Again, if at all possible, we should keep the situation from escalating beyond that. Do we like our transgressions spread all over the church? Only in extreme intransigence should we take the problem to the whole brotherhood, or to the ministry as their administrative representatives.
After this step-by-step instruction, Christ underlines the thought by showing that we should forgive—show mercy and extend grace—even up to 490 times a day to the same person (verses 21-22)! In other words, like God, our mercy should endure forever, since 490 times a day suggests "infinitely." It is almost impossible to offend that many times in such a limited period, especially if connected with real repentance.
Jesus then relates the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant who, though forgiven of enormous debt, threw a fellow servant in jail for not repaying a pittance. Christ then gives a stern warning: If you are merciless to your brother, expect like treatment from your heavenly Father. So, not only is mercy a good idea, God requires it, and severe penalties will fall upon us if we refuse to extend it.
James makes it even more emphatic! "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). The apostle links the fair and impartial judgment of God directly with mercy or grace, for one without the other spells death for every sinner.
Frequently, we may state our willingness to forgive a brother or sister—but "only if they apologize!" What magnanimous largesse! What unassailable righteousness! "If they grovel, I will deign to forgive." No, what sickening, superior patronization! Mercy or grace need not always be contingent on the offender's apology or repentance.
Did not Christ ask His Father to forgive his assassins, "for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34)? This was not some minor social infraction or everyday offense in life, but the crime of the ages! They were certainly of no mind to repent or feel any remorse, yet He willingly turned the other cheek, taking every despicable sin of all mankind on Himself in abject humility without a whisper of protest!
The Weightier Matters (Part 3): Mercy
The tragedy of the story and the focus of the parable is the man who hid his talent. From him we probably learn the most. First, the talent was not his in the first place; it was on loan. Second, Christ shows that people bury their gifts primarily out of fear. Third, the whole parable illustrates that regarding spiritual gifts, one never loses what he uses. That is a powerful lesson: If we use the gifts that God gives us, we cannot lose! The one who was punished never even tried, so God called him wicked and lazy. His passivity regarding spiritual things doomed him.
Comparing this parable to the Parable of the Ten Virgins, we see a few interesting contrasts. The five foolish virgins suffered because they let what they had run out. This servant with one talent apparently never even used what he had. The virgins failed because they thought their job was too easy, while this servant failed because he thought it was too hard. On many fronts they seem to be opposites.
The servant's true character comes out in his defense before the master and in the master's condemnation. In verse 24 he claims, "Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed." That is a lie! Not having this belief, the other two servants immediately go to work, never suggesting that they think their master is harsh and greedy.
The wicked servant justifies his lack of growth by blaming it on God. "It was too hard, Lord." He accuses God of an insensitive and demanding evaluation. That is why Christ calls him wicked. He calls God a liar and accuses the master of exploitation and avarice. If he did work, he says, he would see little or none of the profit, and if he failed, he would get nothing but the master's wrath.
The master then asks, "Why didn't you at least invest my money so that I could receive interest?" The servant, in his justification and fear, overlooks his responsibility to discharge his duty in even the smallest areas. Blaming his master and excusing himself, this servant with one talent fell to the temptations of resentment and fear. Together, the two are a deadly combination.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism
At this point, Jesus forces us to consider the story of the prodigal son's elder brother. The elder brother did not feel like joining his father's celebration. We can imagine that he was likely full of resentment that had built up over the years of his little brother's absence. The elder brother may have had to shoulder more of the work around the farm. What is more, his brother's reckless behavior probably tarnished the family name and caused both his father and himself anguish and pain, as they likely wondered if they were ever to see him again.
Perhaps the greatest source of resentment is exposed in verses 29-30, when the elder son responds to his father's pleadings. It is noteworthy that the elder brother refers to himself five times in verse 29. However, considering the circumstances, it is easy to understand his frustration. He felt betrayed, disrespected, unappreciated, and perhaps even unloved. He had likely just finished another hard day's work, made harder for all these years by his little brother's absence. He was not in a forgiving mood, nor was he ready to accept—much less celebrate—his little brother's return to the family. He had long since declared, “I am done with him!”
Ignorant of all the facts of his younger brother's difficulties, leading to his repentance and return, the older brother reacted with typical, carnal emotion. Instead of trusting his father, his emotional outburst, fueled by the same pride that had nearly destroyed his younger brother, led him also to sin against his father. In his anger and self-pity, he lost sight of what was truly important. In addition, he failed to recognize the futility of trying to change or control what others do. Therefore, he also failed to control what he did have power over—his attitude and response.
The lesson here is not unlike what is related in Genesis 4. Cain allowed his pride to fuel great resentment against his righteous brother, Abel. This pride transformed Cain into a miserable murderer. However, we should keep in mind that even without murdering someone, unchecked resentment can also inspire harsh words that have deathly power. Proverbs 18:21 admonishes us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
It is helpful to compare the elder brother's attitude to that of the Pharisees and scribes, since Christ was aiming this parable directly at them. Just like these Jewish religious leaders, the elder brother was living and judging by the letter of the law, not by its spirit. By all appearances, the elder brother was righteous, but inside, where a person's character forms, he was teeming with hypocrisy and sin.
Ted E. Bowling
The Elder Brother
God provides us with dozens of examples of men and women who were partial to various people or things, and along with the examples come important lessons we can learn to avoid their mistakes. Sometimes, a right and godly favoritism is shown—particularly by God Himself—and an unrighteous, human reaction causes a great deal of trouble. Yet, more often, human partiality toward or against others opens the proverbial can of worms. A number of examples come immediately to mind.
»When God accepted Abel's offering but rejected Cain's—favor based on obedience and proper attitude—hatred, jealousy, resentment, and murderous rage resulted (see Genesis 4). This first example is one of godly favor taken badly.
»Through favoritism, Isaac (toward Esau) and Rebecca (toward Jacob) instilled a spirit of competition, strife, and resentment between the two brothers, which led to an even-now ongoing feud, more than 3,500 years later (see Genesis 25 and 27)!
»Jacob's partiality to Rachel was the source of a great deal of hostility and scheming among Jacobs's wives and concubines (see Genesis 30). This also created rivalries between their sons.
»Jacob's favoritism for Joseph made his half-brothers so jealous that they were ready to murder him (see Genesis 37). Instead, they "only" sold him into slavery, telling their father that he had been torn to pieces by a wild beast. This caused the patriarch no end of grief.
»Through his partiality as a father, Eli allowed himself to become complacent to the gross sins of his two sons (see I Samuel 2-4). This led both to calamity for Eli's house and national defeat at the hands of the Philistines.
»King David's partiality blinded his eyes to his children's evil actions, particularly Amnon's rape of his half-sister, Tamar; and Absalom's murder of Amnon and his rebellion against David himself (see II Samuel 13-18). Later, he ignored Adonijah's preparations to take over his throne, in spite of his expressed desire to have Solomon succeed him (see I Kings 1).
»In the story of Esther, Haman's prejudice almost cost the lives of all the Jews living in the Persian Empire (see Esther 3-8). Only an act of great courage and self-sacrifice saved the Jews from annihilation.
The Bible contains a host of other examples that thoroughly demonstrate the insidiousness of this potential sin. It is clear that the effects of partiality are the real problem. A person can have the best of intentions and reasons for his bias—as God's favor certainly is—but the reactions of those not in favor cause events to spin out of control. At other times, and certainly in most cases of human bias, the respect of persons is clearly wrong from the outset, and the carnal reactions of those it affects just makes matters worse.
The Sin of Partiality
James focuses on "bitter envy." If "envy" is desire for what another has, "bitter envy" must mean a person wants something so much that he is angry and hateful over it. Bitterness is a child of anger and resentment. Satan takes great delight in burdening our hearts with these harmful emotions. Unprovoked or quick-tempered anger is a hallmark of our modern cities, which resound in the night with the bark of gunfire and the howl of sirens.
Bitter envy takes jealousy to the next step by adding resentment and anger, and from it emerges words that stab, cut, tear down, refute, and diminish. We use these to reduce the stature of another so we may seem to stand taller. A talebearer or gossip only wants his listener to think less of another so that he might think more of him.
We can be envious because another sinned and "got away with it." We can envy those who have more, whom we feel do not deserve it. Envy often springs up when we receive unwarranted correction and someone else, who deserves it, does not. We can feel envy when one receives attention we desire for ourselves or when we fail to receive hard-earned recognition.
Envious words are bitter words: They are pointed and sharp, but their target is subtle. On the surface, they may even sound righteous, but in reality, they manipulate thinking in the speaker's favor.
Test: Do our words build or burn? If we build our stature by burning another's, we are standing on a platform of ashes that will crumble and topple us anytime. Only after I was gossiped about repeatedly did I began to see my own words of envy expressed. How foolish it had made me look, trying to stand taller on a pile of ashes!
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)
1 Peter 4:1-2
Looking at these scriptures in the light of I Peter 5:6-8, and understanding that Peter is writing with his thoughts on Satan in the background, our feelings are especially vulnerable because it is natural for us to feel that we are being taken advantage of or not being treated as we should be, and our emotions begin to run wild. Such a situation is tailor-made for Satan. He himself fell prey to such a circumstance. Either he will try to move us in that direction, or if it begins to happen even without him, then he will take advantage of it and move to affect our emotions even more.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)
1 John 3:15
This verse succinctly states why it is so important not to hold the spirit of murder within us. Anger or resentment may flash into our minds, and we have not yet sinned. But if we hold it and allow it to burn, it could very well destroy us!
Hatred also is the spirit of murder. But beware! Human nature can lead us into thinking that hatred has no serious, immediate consequences because the Lake of Fire seems so far off. The spirit of murder must be nipped in the bud before it leads to murder or the Lake of Fire. Notice Matthew 5:23-24, the verses immediately after Jesus' statement on the spirit of murder:
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Do not attempt to make any offering to God while in the spirit of enmity! Jesus' words clearly imply that God will not accept our worship while we hate another person! Can we honestly say we are worshipping God in spirit and truth when we hate a brother? How can a heart burdened by grudges offer God complete adoration? Within God's court there are no unsolved crimes, nor does He lack the power to see our inner motives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)
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