The Golden Rule in Reverse
1. This proverb deals with the subject of revenge.
2. The only question concerning its meaning has to do with context.
a. Most of the proverbial thoughts in this section consist of more than one verse, usually two or three.
b. The next proverbial thought actually is found in the next five verses dealing with the sluggard.
c. This section is different than much of the earlier chapters in that there is a context… several verses strung together.
d. The debate is whether verses 28 and 29 are to be considered as individual thoughts or if they are both speaking of the same theme.
3. If they stand alone, then:
a. Verse 28 speaks about perjury = lying in court.
b. Verse 29 speaks of revenge.
4. If they are to be taken as a unit of thought then:
a. They are both speaking about lying in court.
b. Verse 28 forbids lying and deception in court
c. Verse 29 forbids lying in court to take revenge on an enemy.
5. It is probably best to understand these two proverbs as one proverbial thought… acknowledging that even as a unit, each passage can have many applications on its own—beyond the courtroom scene.
1. We are going to begin looking at this proverb assuming that it is a continuation of the context established in verse 28.
a. As such, this would be seen as a synthetic parallelism: a proverbial thought that builds on what was said before.
b. It continues the same thought but adds new information.
2. Consider the progression of the proverbial thought:
a. Don’t be a false witness against your neighbor in court.
b. Don’t deceive either… by leaving out key points in your testimony that might be misleading. Don’t deceive by any means. To do so would be a violation of justice.
c. And don’t use the legal system to get even with an enemy. Don’t lie about someone in court because you don’t like the person! Don’t use the legal system as a platform to seek revenge against an enemy or to make him look bad.
3. “I will do to him as he hath done to me.”
a. These are the words of someone who has been injured by another person.
b. Someone harmed him in some way:
• Perhaps through gossip or lying.
• Perhaps this other person has caused the speaker here to experience a loss of property… a ruined field of crops… lost animals.
• The specific type of harm done is not stated. We could apply this to ANY kind of harm that another has done.
• Whatever the harm was, the speaker wants to get even.
• The speaker was hurt by that person; now the speaker wants to hurt him back.
c. This is an expression of pure revenge.
• Obviously the person speaking feels justified in what he’s doing.
• He probably sees it as a matter of an “eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth.” He hurt me; now I’m going to hurt him back.
• This is what our fallen nature is like. We like to take revenge in our own hands and strike back at those who strike at us.
• The desire to “get even” seems to be universal among men… and women and children.
• There are lots of examples of revenge sought after in the Bible.
• Absalom sought revenge against his half brother, Amnon for defiling his sister, Tamar.
• Judg. 15:9-11 – Sampson sought revenge against the Philistines… and the Philistines sought revenge against Sampson.
• It’s probably quite safe to say that every person in this room has not only thought about revenge, but has also carried it out in one form or another… in word or in deed.
4. Seeking revenge is clearly forbidden in both Old and New Testaments.
a. Psalm 94:1 – The Old Testament saints were not to take vengeance into their own hands. They were to pray for the God of Vengeance to SHOW Himself… by taking vengeance on their enemies.
b. Prov. 20:22 – Old Testament saints were not to take vengeance themselves, but they were to wait on the Lord to do so.
c. Rom. 12:19 – New Testament saints are told the same thing. Do NOT take vengeance into your own hands. Vengeance belongs to the Lord.
d. I Peter 3:9 – Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
• This runs contrary to our nature.
• Perhaps out of a sense of morality, a man might be convinced to restrain himself from striking back or rendering evil for evil.
• But it takes a special grace to enable us to respond to evil done to us with “blessing.”
• However strange and foreign it might be to our old nature, it is our CALLING in Christ. We have been called to live this way.
e. Seeking to take out revenge on someone is sinful—in any age and in any setting. There is never a justification for it.
f. Even if our cause is just, there is no justification for an individual taking justice into his own hands.
g. Vengeance belongs to the Lord ultimately. And in this life, God has ordained governments to execute justice against criminals.
h. We are NOT to take matters into our own hands. There is to be NO vigilante justice before God.
5. It is especially heinous in a courtroom situation before the Law of the land.
a. If someone lies about you in order to get even for some real or perceived injustice done to them, you might well brush it off.
b. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.
c. However, if they lie about you in court, the consequences could be much more severe than hurt feelings.
d. You could end up in jail or paying a fine. You are not simply lied about or gossiped about around the water bubbler. Now it is in a public setting… before authorities who could imprison you… fine you… take away your property.
e. This is much more serious than being lied about in other settings.
6. What a contrast to what the Lord Jesus taught.
a. The man in this proverb said, “I will do to him as he has done to me.” He treated me cruelly so I will treat him with the same cruelty… and maybe even a little worse! I’ll show him!
b. Matt. 7:12 – What is called “the Golden Rule” teaches the opposite.
• The Lord Jesus taught that we should do to others GOOD things that we would WANT them to do to us… not BAD things that they have already done to us.
• This is grace… giving others a benefit that they do not deserve.
• This is how the Lord treats us—and it is how we ought to treat others.
• It is very different from the way the world operates.
• The world also has its Golden Rule. In the world, whoever has all the gold makes all the rules.
• Jesus taught us to be gracious and selfless and to leave all judgment and revenge in the hands of the Lord.
• Matt. 5:39 – We are not to try to get even.
» In fact, if someone smites us in the face, we are not to strike back.
» Leave vengeance to the Lord or to the government which the Lord established to execute justice.
» By doing so we are expressing our submission to God.
• Matt. 5:44 – We are not to seek personal vengeance against those who mistreat us.
» We are to do GOOD to them and to PRAY for them.
» Pray for them—seeking God’s best for them.
» That’s very different from lying in court against them to get even!
1. This statement of revenge basically puts the speaker in the place of God Himself!
2. II Tim. 4:14 – The Lord would reward Alexander according to his works.
a. God alone is the One who judges sin. Vengeance belongs to the Lord.
b. It is God—not we—who rewards a man according to his work.
3. We are very poor judges of a man’s works because we cannot see what God sees.
a. God knows the heart… the deep things of the heart.
b. God sees the motive behind the works.
c. God sees all the circumstances surrounding a man’s work.
d. We see none of that, and are thus not qualified to judge another man’s works as God can.
e. And we are certainly not in any position to execute personal vengeance against any other person.
f. We are to submit to God and His will for our life and leave all those matters into His care.
g. He makes no mistakes. We are prone to error in judgment.
h. We don’t have the ability to render unto a man according to his works.