Righteousness Vs. Revengefulness

Bible Book: Ephesians  : 31-32
Subject: Revenge


According to Webster’s Dictionary, revenge means, “to inflict damage, injury, or punishment in return for (an injury, insult, etc.) retaliate for.”[1] A shorter, modern-day definition would simply be “payback, settling the score; or as some people like to say, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” Though the origin of that last statement is unknown, we can readily imagine a Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger movie character making such a statement with a devil-may-care-look on his face. When we hear that statement, we smile a knowing grin, assured that things are about to get tough for the one who dared to cross the main character of the movie.

There’s something about seeing the bad guys get their comeuppance that all of us enjoy. We like to see justice done; and sometimes we don’t even mind seeing justice overdone a bit. However, though revenge might make for an interesting storyline in a movie, it should never become a part of the Christian’s life and attitude. Christians do not possess a God-given right to “even the score” with those who have wronged them, or offended them. Please understand that I’m not talking about matters of illegality. However, those matters should be handled according to civil law, not by physical force or spiteful mistreatment.

The life of Joseph is a prime example of the sort of response that Christians should seek to emulate when others do them wrong. If anyone had a good reason for wanting to retaliate for injustices done, Joseph did. His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, strictly out of jealousy and hatred. Nevertheless, this godly Old Testament man did not seek to give those who wronged him a piece of their own medicine, but rather, he demonstrated grace, kindness and forgiveness. God, in His Word, urges the saints of our day, to do the same thing. This is made possible by walking in the Spirit, so that one does not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).

For a few moments today, I want to discuss the difference between one who walks in righteousness and one who wants revenge.



Theme: The telltale signs of a revengeful attitude are…




A. Joseph’s Brothers Contemplated Hatred.


Gen. 50:15 “And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.”


NOTE: [1] It is rather sad that Joseph’s brothers still misunderstood his character, after all the kindness he had shown them during their years in Egypt.


[1a] When Joseph finally made himself known to his brethren, who had come to Egypt to buy food, he sought to comfort them concerning the fact that they had sold him into slavery (Gen. 45:3-5).


[1b] He had lovingly received his brothers with heartfelt affection. He embraced them all, kissed them, and wept with them (Gen. 45:14-15).


[1c] He gave them the best land in Egypt to live in, and to raise their flocks (Gen. 47:11). He gave them the land of Goshen, which means, “‘to draw near.’ In other words, his brethren were put in a place where they could have access to him.”[2]


[2] Notice that these brothers expected Joseph to hate them, and as a result, “requite us,” or “pay us back for all the wrong we did to him.”[3] In spite of all the love that Joseph had shown his family since coming to live in Egypt, they feared that he would resort to getting even after their father’s death. You know folks; some Christians fear that if they mess up bad enough, Jesus will get even with them by taking back their salvation. Nothing could be farther from the character of our Savior, for Ps. 103:10 & 12 says, “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities…As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”


B. Joseph’s Brothers Confessed Honestly.


Gen. 50:16 “And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,

17a So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father.”


NOTE: Joseph’s brothers had hinted at their sin against Joseph years before, when they first arrived in Egypt and discovered that Joseph was alive and well. Here, however, they finally come clean, and ask for Joseph’s forgiveness.


C. Joseph was Compassionately Humbled.


Gen. 50:17b “…And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.”


NOTE: [1] A truly forgiving person has no desire to see an offender grovel at their feet, begging for mercy and forgiveness, nor do they enjoy seeing the pain caused by the offender’s guilt. Instead, they are filled with compassion and understanding for the offender. However, this doesn’t mean that they feel good about the wrong done them; but it means that they choose to no longer hold the wrong over the heads of the offender.

[2] Peter tells us what kind of attitude we should have toward one another when he says, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful (“tenderhearted”[4]), be courteous” (1 Pet. 3:8).




A. Joseph Realized that Judgment was not His Right.


Gen. 50:18 “And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.

19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?”


NOTE: When a child of God takes it upon himself to judge someone and condemn him or her to be worthy of God’s judgment for their wrong, he is in danger of bringing judgment upon himself. We must remember that we are all weak and fallible, and given to fault.


Matt. 7:1 “Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”


B. Scripture Reveals that Judgment is God’s Responsibility.


Rom. 12:19 “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”


NOTE: When we seek to exact vengeance upon someone who has wronged us, we are stepping into a place where we don’t belong. Joseph realized this. Judgment belongs only to God, Who sees all things accurately. This is clearly brought out in God’s Word.




Gen. 45: 4 “And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.

5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.


7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God…”


Gen. 50:20 “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”


Rom. 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”


NOTE: [1] Notice how the righteousness of Joseph moved him to immediately seek to assuage the shame and guilt of his brothers, rather than heaping the guilt of their offense upon their heads (Gen. 45:5a). In his heart, he’d already forgiven them; therefore, he did not wish to pain them any further with what they’d done to him. This act on Joseph’s part was not an approval of his brother’s treacherous hatred and betrayal so many years earlier, but was simply the nature of forgiveness, and a willingness to move past the wrong and begin again with a new perspective.


When the first missionaries came to Alberta, Canada, they were savagely opposed by a young chief of the Cree Indians named Maskepetoon. But he responded to the gospel and accepted Christ.

Shortly afterward, a member of the Blackfoot tribe killed his father. Maskepetoon rode into the village where the murderer lived and demanded that he be brought before him. Confronting the guilty man, he said, “You have killed my father, so now you must be my father. You shall ride my best horse and wear my best clothes.”

In utter amazement and remorse his enemy exclaimed, “My son, now you have killed me!” He meant, of course, that the hate in his own heart had been completely erased by the forgiveness and kindness of the Indian chief.[5]


[2] Joseph’s righteousness and forgiveness caused him not to obsess over the unfairness of the wrong committed against him, but to see God’s providence in the trials and tribulations of his life (Gen. 45:5b-8a). Joseph saw in the misfortune of his earlier life, the foreknowledge of God, in providing for the welfare of His chosen people (Gen. 45:5b-8a; Gen. 50:20a).

All Things Work Together


When a person is ill and a doctor called in, he usually writes out a prescription for medicine, which is taken to a druggist who prepares it. He takes an empty bottle and puts into it so much liquid out of one bottle, so much powder out of another bottle, and so on, and puts a label on it with the words, “Shake the bottle.” All those different medicines work together for the good of the patient. The liquid may be disagreeable to the taste, but it is for the sick person’s good.

So all things, even the bitter, disagreeable things which God allows to reach us, are all for our good. “All things work together for good to them that love God.”[6]




A. A Forgiver Seeks to Comfort the Offender.


Gen. 50:21 “Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”


2 Cor. 2:7 “So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.”


B. A Revenger Seeks to Chastise the Offender.


Matt. 18:23 “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents (“$52,800,000, if silver”)[7].

25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him an hundred pence (“$44)[8]: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

29 And his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

31 So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee?

34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

NOTE: As Matt. 18:34-35 bears out, a person with an unforgiving, revengeful attitude will ultimately suffer for it.



Theme: The telltale signs of a revengeful attitude are…



































Copyright © September 1990 by Rev. Donnie L. Martin. All rights reserved.

[1] Webster’s New World Dictionary, eds. Victoria Neufeldt and David B. Guralnik (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1988), p. 1148.

[2] John Phillips, Exploring Genesis, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, n.d.), p. 351.

[3] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), p. 66.

[4] Kenneth S. Wuest (1893-1962), Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. II, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), First Peter in the Greek New Testament, p. 86.

[5] Today in the Word, November 10, 1993.

[6] Truth Illuminated: Gospel Illustrations for Pulpit and Pew, Gathered and Edited by William Norton, Secretary, The Bible Institute Colportage Association of Chicago (New York, Chicago, London and Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company, MCMXXIX [1929]), p. 9.

[7] The Holy Bible, KJV, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., n.d.) © 1976 Thomas Nelson Publishers, Read-Along References, p. 1436.

[8] Ibid, p. 1436.