Proverbs 20:22

Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.
– Proverbs 20:22

The word for recompense means to reciprocate, or to repay. The repaying of evil refers to revenge, or vengeance. The first phrase speaks of getting back, or getting even with someone who has done you evil. It is natural for man to want to give as he gets; to repay evil with evil. On the one hand we have an inherent sense of justice, especially when it comes to wrongs personally suffered. This is a remnant of the imago dei, though being marred by sin that image present in our conscience is flawed (Romans 2:14-15). On the other hand, our pride is offended in personal injury and we want to put ourselves in the place of God to mete out justice as we see fit. Wisdom, of course, teaches a better way.

Proverbs considers this common experience from a few different angles. In Proverbs 17:13, wisdom understands the one who repays evil for good shall reap what he sows. So when we suffer evil for good we have done, we can know the offender will not “get away with it.” Proverbs 24:29 plainly instructs us not to seek vengeance at our own hands. If we consider this proverb with the one before it (Proverbs 24:28), wisdom will not violate law and justice in order to repay one who has done the same to us. Proverbs 25:21 provides an alternative, positive response to being wronged.

Proverbs 20:22 appeals to the sovereignty of God as a wise comfort in suffering wrong. However, this proverb makes the unique contribution in the second line. Wisdom instructs to wait, which means have patience. But it is not to wait for Diving vengeance to fall on our adversary, but rather our own deliverance, or rescue as the word for save means. Rather than take vengeance in our own hands or wait for justice to come from elsewhere, we are to wait on the Lord and trust in him. Jesus exampled this for us (1 Peter 2:23; 4:19), and so Paul found comfort in his many sufferings (2 Timothy 1:12).

Listen to the Proverbs sermon series