This isn’t a new Avengers movie starring two Bibical superheros.
This is a comparison that struck me today in my reading of scripture. In the book of Esther we are told of a man named Haman. He’s the “villain” in the story and if you aren’t familiar with this particular book of the Bible, here’s a quick recap:
Esther is a young Jewish girl who is being raised by her cousin Mordecai. The King of Persia (Xerxes AKA Ahasuerus) is seeking a new Queen because his last queen publicly defied him (big NO NO back then).
Esther finds favor in the sight of the King and he invites her to be queen.
Her cousin Mordecai was given a position at the palace and one of the king’s officials, Haman, was promoted. Haman’s promotion was such a big deal that all the king’s servants were commanded to pay homage and bow down to Haman. However, Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, or anyone who was not God. Esther 3:5 says, “and when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury.” Haman was so distressed by this that upon discovery that Mordecai is a Jew as well, he plots to destroy all the Jews. In fact, the next time Mordecai refuses to bow down to Haman, he (chapter 5 v. 9) “was filled with wrath against Mordecai.”
He sought council of his friends and his wife and (vs. 11) “recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him” (so essentially he sat there and bragged about himself first for a while). Then he complained and his friends and wife all agreed that he should build a gallows and in the morning (vs. 14) “tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it! Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.”
This is only Part One of the story and already we have a major issue coming to a head between Mordecai and Haman. Today I just want to point out this particular part of the story. Why did Haman hate Mordecai so deeply (just for something so stupid and insignificant as not bowing down to him…what a diva amiright?) that he would attempt to destroy the entire people group that he belonged to and then kill the man himself?
Here is exactly why.
Haman was filled with pride, vanity, entitlement, superiority and had quite an ego. You see it when he’s promoted (he expects everyone to suddenly bow to him), you see it when he’s explaining his many successes to his family and friends (as if to remind them just how incredible and prosperous he is).
- Insecurity and Sensitivity
Often the most prideful people are also incredibly insecure and sensitive. Seem like a contradiction? On the surface level, yes, but in depth we recognize that humility brings confidence because its very essence lies in the belief that you are no better than anyone else. Pride does quite the opposite, lifting yourself above others and when they fail to recognize your “greatness”, your insecurity kicks in and feelings are wounded.
The spirit of offense causes division. Plain and simple. The spirit of offense casts off love. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 13 explains what love truly is: “love is not proud”, “love does not boast”, “it is not easily angered”, and “it keeps no record of wrongs”. That’s just to name a few. Offense cancels out all of these things.
- Bad council, flattery & lies
Haman, unfortunately, seeks some pretty bad council from his family and friends. They are enamored by his success and power and desire to be in his inner circle so they sinfully flatter him and indulge his hissy fit. They do not speak truth to him, instead they encourage him with empty lies and false adulation. Bad council confirms offense, and feeds insecurity with flattery and lies.
Before we get to the fifth thing, let’s recognize that the first 4 have created a monster.
That monster is VICTIMIZATION. These 4 things, in fact, have turned Haman into a victim in his own mind and the mind of his companions. Haman’s wife and friends stroked his ego (as if it needed more stroking) and fanned his flame of “righteous indignation” and what formed was the nasty, bloodthirsty monster of revenge.
- Blame is placed, justice must be served! Vindictiveness is afoot!
Every victim must place blame. You cannot have a victim without blame. There is always someone who has done something to cause the victim’s victimhood. In this case, Haman places the blame on Mordecai (let’s remember….only because he didn’t bow down to him) and then goes even further. He places blame on the entire kingdom of Jews, because in his mind, “if one of them is bad, then they must all be bad!”
Now let’s compare Haman with Jesus for a second here using the antitheses all of the same 5 points. The reason I bring Jesus into this is because as I read this passage today, I thought: “Hey! There are moments when I have been like Haman (not that I’ve ever plotted to kill anyone, mind you)! But also, if we are honest, we have all been a little like Haman at some point in time and we certainly know other people who are like Haman! Hey! The world is filled with Hamans!” But you know who I am trying (and often failing) to strive to emulate? Def not Haman. The answer is Jesus.
- Humility (not pride)
The Bible tells us (on multiple occasions) that Jesus was humble. He came as a servant, not as a ruler. That is because he is the humility of God embodied in human nature. He clothed himself in meekness and gentleness. Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Have this in mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
- Confidence and Understanding
Instead of being wrought with insecurities and sensitivity, Jesus was confident in who he was, as we who are God’s children also ought to be. Our identity should be found in Christ. That brings the greatest confidence one can imagine. When one is confident in their identity, they will not become stuck in the shallow traps of insecurity and sensitivity. Jesus could not be sensitive and bring to earth a Gospel truth that many would find offensive. He had to have the thick skin that is found in someone who clearly knows who they are and what their mission is. He understood people. He knew he would be rejected. He still spoke truth.
Instead of operating in a spirit of offense, Jesus operated in a spirit of defense. To defend is to protect, cover, shield, guard, offer security. Instead of laying blame, in the true spirit of love (see 1 Corinthians 13 above) Jesus was a living example of Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” Love protects, it does not divide. Offense divides, defense protects and unites. If you want a great list of Bible verses about the spirit of offense, here are some. https://www.openbible.info/topics/offense
- Holy Council and Truthful Guidance
We saw Haman weakened by the bad council and flattery of those who surrounded him. Jesus sought only the council of his father. He sought only the Holy Council of God. Jesus even rebuked those closest to him, his disciples, when they did not speak with wisdom and discernment. Surround yourself with council that will speak to you in truth and wisdom, even when it hurts. But most importantly, seek Holy Council from the Lord first and foremost. Flattery may sound like a nice thing, however, a wise person learns to recognize it and separate flattery from sincere compliments. Flattery is often coupled with lying, as a flatterer is not concerned with whether or not he or she is being truthful. Psalm 5:9 says “For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.” Romans 16:18 says “for such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.”
- Jesus did not wallow in his “victimhood”
Even as he was hanging on the cross, our Jesus was saying (Luke 23:34) “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” If anyone deserved to label themselves a victim, to cast blame onto those who nailed him to the cross, it was certainly Jesus. Romans 2:1 says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you pass judgement do the same things.” Galatians 6:5 says, “For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”
Jesus had every right to miraculously leap from the cross, place the blame (riding high on the drug of victimization and offense) and destroy everyone around him who had ever harmed him, said a word against him, or even (because he’s omnipotent) every thought against him.
Instead of “canceling” everyone who was against him, instead of plotting to destroy them as Haman had done, Jesus stayed on the cross, humble as a lamb, dying for his enemies; the very ones who had ridiculed and rejected him. He turned the other cheek, in ultimate humility and operating in ultimate Godly love.
I encourage you today to take a look at how Haman responded when someone turned against him. Then take a look at how Jesus responded. I was certainly convicted.
In a world of Hamans, let’s be more like Jesus.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”