Is It Payback Time?

Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.”

David feels just like her in Psalm 109.

Lord, here’s the problem

Perhaps like David you never anticipated rejection or betrayal from a person close to you. David begins his prayer with a gush of anguish that we might paraphrase: “God, please don’t let them get away with this. I’ve been wronged, lied to, and lied about. It’s not fair. I gave love and got used” (vv. 1–5).

Lord, here’s my delicious solution

Appoint a prosecutor (v. 6). When you’ve been harmed, it’s normal to want justice. David doesn’t want some rookie or softie to handle his case, but a prosecutor as crooked as the guy who wronged him.

Get a guilty verdict (v. 7). You would like to hear the other person admit his or her wrong or be held responsible.

David Augsburger tells the story of the wife who said, “Sure I’ll forgive him, but not until he’s paid for all he’s dragged me through.” Years later the husband said, “You can keep your phony forgiving. I’ve paid through the nose for what I’ve done. Who needs forgiveness when he’s already paid?”

Make ‘em suffer (vv. 8–15). The Old Testament law of retaliation (eye for eye, tooth for tooth) was given to limit vengeance. If someone, for example, knocked out your tooth you should not be able to extract their tooth plus cut off their hands. But in this prayer David’s anger leaps over all stop signs. He asks God to cut short the former friend’s lifespan and get him fired, ruin his family, and wreck his ancestors and descendants.

God, they deserve it (vv. 6–20). You have good rationale in asking for payback time. David notes how hard-hearted and verbally destructive his former friend was.

Lord, I just need help

David closes the psalm by shifting the focus back to himself (v. 21).

Why should God act on his behalf? He was helpless—that’s why (v. 22). Like David, do you just want to lie down and die (vv. 23,24)? Have you worn your pain so visibly and vocally that others now treat you with clucking pity (v. 25)?

When everyone quits listening, there’s One who still welcomes your voice (v. 26). Calmer with that thought, David closes his prayer more with a request for vindication than vengeance (vv. 27–29) and a powerful statement of trust in God (vv. 30,31). Will you do the same?

Remember the wife that came to George Crane wanting to get even? He advised her to go home and act as if she really loved her husband and when she had him thoroughly hooked, dump him.

She gleefully left his office to implement the fiendish plan of revenge. Two years later when she still had not returned, Dr. Crane called her, “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?”

“Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never. I discovered I really do love him.”

There is a higher way than getting even. Jesus calls you to forgive and do good. Will such action restore the relationship? There’s no guarantee for that. But, forgiveness will always make you a better person, and it may even make room on some future day for the one who wronged you to say, “I’m sorry.”

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