Questions From Readers
At Romans 12:19, was the apostle Paul indicating that Christians should not become wrathful, when he said: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath”?
Strictly speaking, no. The apostle Paul was here referring to God’s wrath. Of course, this is not to say that it matters not whether Christians give in to anger. The Bible clearly counsels us against becoming wrathful. Consider a sampling of divine counsel.
“Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil.” (Psalm 37:8) “Everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice.” (Matthew 5:22) “The works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger.” (Galatians 5:19, 20) “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you.” (Ephesians 4:31) “Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) Furthermore, the book of Proverbs repeatedly counsels us against giving way to wrath or being prone to anger over petty offenses and human errors.—Proverbs 12:16; 14:17, 29; 15:1; 16:32; 17:14; 19:11, 19; 22:24; 25:28; 29:22.
The context of Romans 12:19 is in line with such counsel. Paul recommended that our love be without hypocrisy, that we bless those persecuting us, that we try to think well of others, that we not return evil for evil, and that we strive to be peaceable with all. He then urged: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’”—Romans 12:9, 14, 16-19.
Yes, we should not let anger move us to retaliate with acts of vengeance. Our knowledge of situations and our sense of justice are imperfect. If we let anger move us to acts of vengeance, we will often do wrong. That would serve the ends of God’s Adversary, the Devil. Paul elsewhere wrote: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state, neither allow place for the Devil.”—Ephesians 4:26, 27.
The better course, the wiser course, is to let God determine when and upon whom vengeance is to be brought. He can do so with full knowledge of the facts, and any retribution he takes will reflect his perfect justice. We can see that this is Paul’s point at Romans 12:19 when we note his reference to Deuteronomy 32:35, 41, which includes these words: “Vengeance is mine, and retribution.” (Compare Hebrews 10:30.) Thus, even though the words “of God” are not found in the Greek text, a number of modern translators have inserted them at Romans 12:19. This leads to such readings as “let God take revenge” (The Contemporary English Version); “give place unto the wrath of God” (American Standard Version); “let God punish if he will” (The New Testament in Modern English); “leave a place for divine retribution.”—The New English Bible.
Even when abused or persecuted by enemies of the truth, we can manifest trust in the description of Jehovah God that Moses heard: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment.”—Exodus 34:6, 7.