by Mike Ratliff
Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother? (Genesis 43:5-6 ESV)
Unforgiveness is poison for the Soul as it ensnares those who refuse to forgive by binding them into the prison of bitterness. This world is not a peaceful, easy, benign place. It is fallen. The world system is the product of Man’s rebellion against God. There is war. There is crime. There is oppression. People wrong other people. They place their wants and desires and perceived needs ahead of the wants and desires of others. The world system is marked by people pursuing their own no matter who gets hurt. The Christian is called to respond to the hurts and wrongs done to them in a vastly different way from the ways of the world.
The fallen nature of Man is focused on self. It looks out for number one. Oh, people have loved ones and friends they care for, but when evil enters the lives of most people their focus is not on responding as Jesus said we should.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42 ESV)
God is in the business of placing each of us in points of contention. These points are decision points which have eternal consequences. We will encounter these points and will have to decide to take the right or left fork in our walk. The right fork is to respond by walking by faith and trust and believing God by responding to the pressure in self-denial. The left fork is to respond by walking by sight and unbelief by responding to the pressure in self-focus.
Ungodly focus is self-focus. All in Christ are enemies of Satan and the world system. He is the enemy of God and attacks each believer and the Church as a whole in an attempt to destroy the faith of believers and rob God of His glory. Believers either walk by faith or walk by sight. Those walking by faith use their armor and prayer to stand firm and not fall away when attacked. However, a believer not doing this has succumbed to the attacks of the enemy to be self-satisfied in their self-sufficency and spiritual arrogance. This is ungodly focus and those who have it are not in the battle at all. They respond to the pressure God puts on them at His points of decision from that focus.
Let us look at a Biblical example of one who had an ungodly focus and how he responded as God put the pressure on.
Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’” (Genesis 43:1-5 ESV)
Remember, Jacob’s sons had hated their brother Joseph so much that they kidnapped him to kill him. Instead of killing him, however, they sold him into slavery. They then pretended to find Joseph’s coat covered in blood to make Jacob believe that he had been killed by a wild beast. God had worked to preserve Joseph though. He had given him the ability to interpret dreams and with this he was able to become the Prime Minister of Egypt. In this role he collected grain to store up for a coming 7 year famine. When the famine came, Jacob sent Joseph’s 10 older brothers down to Egypt to buy grain.
When they came to Joseph to buy grain he recognized them, but they did not recognize him. He accused them of being spies. In order to prove they weren’t spies he locked Simeon up in prison as a hostage and told them that the only way they would ever see him again was to return with their youngest brother, Benjamin. They returned to Canaan. Jacob would not let Benjamin go back with them. He seemed more concerned about Benjamin being with him than he did about Simeon in prison or the rest of his family having food in order to live. He would not let Benjamin go with them even when they told him that the only way they could buy more grain was if Benjamin was with them.
Weeks passed and the grain they had bought was used up. The famine was still strong in the land and this family was again out of food. Jacob tells his sons to go back to Egypt to buy grain. However, the brothers tell him that the only way they can do this is if Benjamin goes with them. Jacob has delayed their return. His concern should have been for Simeon, but he delayed making a decision. Now they are out of food again. An ungodly focus delays prudent action. Jacob’s decision seems somewhat irrational to us because it is. However, this is the nature of unbelief.
Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.” (Genesis 43:6-10 ESV)
Another aspect of an ungodly focus is that it denies personal responsibilities. Jacob is actually upset with his sons for telling the truth about the existence of Benjamin. Remember the name “Jacob” means “Deceiver.” Jacob’s name fit his nature. If he could come up with a way to get food without doing what is right, yet costly, then he will do so. In his irrational reasoning here we see him blaming his predicament on others. However, he is out of food and the only place he can get it is in Egypt and the only way he can get it is to send Benjamin with his sons and he is torn. Why? He is totally self-focused and self-absorbed. He is not concerned about his responsibility, only in not “losing.”
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. (Genesis 43:11-12 ESV)
Here we see that an ungodly focus depends on pragmatic solutions. The self-focused Christian does not respond to crisis in prayer and seeking God’s will in it. Instead, he or she tries to come up with a pragmatic solution that has worked for them in the past. Jacob bribed Esau with a lot of livestock when he was reunited with him. It worked then, perhaps he can bribe “the man in Egypt” with gifts. Pragmatism is not of God. We are called to walk by faith, not by sight. We must depend on God and work to be in His will. We get there by being humble and accepting God’s solution. The self-focused believer does none of these things. Their pride rules them so they are spiritually blind.
Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” (Genesis 43:13-14 ESV)
An ungodly focus doubts providential provision. Jacob has no choice. He has to send Benjamin to Egypt in order to have food and get Simeon back. Jacob appears to pray for the outcome he hopes for, but notice he does not trust that it will be so. Those in unbelief doubt God. Even though they will deny that they are in unbelief, those who are walking in self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency are walking in spiritual arrogance and that is an ungodly focus, which is unbelief.
How do we break out of this trap of bitterness? We must become broken before God. When those points of decision or contention come into our lives we must not choose the left fork, but instead, trust God and respond in faith and self-denial. All of us are in some form of this battle. There are some things in all of our lives in which we are bound in the prison of bitterness and we respond in unforgiveness because we have an ungodly focus. Whenever we find ourselves in the crucible at these points, God has placed us there. We are under pressure from Him to choose faith or unbelief. Which will it be? Don’t you want to break the chains of this prison? Don’t you want to be able to respond to the person who has wronged you as Jesus would? Then the answer is to have a Godly Focus instead of an ungodly one. How is this accomplished? The answer is to become Spirit-filled and to have the mind of Christ. How do we do this? We will look at that in the next post.
Soli Deo Gloria!