Hoist On One’s Own Petard

By Michael E. Brooks

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“Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, ‘Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king’s behalf, is standing at the house of Haman.’ Then the king said, ‘Hang him on it.’ So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided” (Esther 7:8-9).

Though the people in other nations with whom I am associated include many fine Christians who serve tirelessly and unselfishly, unfortunately there are sometimes others who criticize, accuse and complain against their brothers and sisters.

Investigating such reports and dealing with the parties of disputes is one of the least pleasant of my tasks. Sometimes the complaints are legitimate, and a brother or sister must be confronted or even disciplined. Often however the report is unjustified, prompted by jealousy, greed or other base motive.

In such cases, the complaint itself often provides evidence of guilt of the reporting party. His or her attitude and actions reveal the source and cause of the problem. Far from creating trouble for the accused, the accuser rather attracts attention to his or her own unchristian behavior.

This reminds us of Haman’s hatred of Mordecai, as related to us in the Old Testament book of Esther. Haman was a favored official of the king of Persia, who was beset with ego and pride. Mordecai was a Jew who occupied a somewhat lower position in the court. Mordecai refused to bow down before Haman or to acknowledge Haman’s greatness. This was the root of his hatred. At the advice of friends, Haman built a huge gallows, and went to the king to request permission to hang his enemy. Through providential intervention, Haman was revealed as the enemy of Queen Esther’s people and a great threat to her life. The king ordered his execution, to be carried out upon the very instrument which Haman had built for Mordecai.

This reversal is not at all unusual. What we intend for others comes back to ourselves. This may be for harm, but it also may be for good. Our modern saying is, “What goes around, comes around.” In other words, what we do for or to others will at some time be done for or to us. Those who invariably smile and greet others warmly are usually greeted in a friendly fashion themselves. Those who complain, criticize, and malign others are normally spoken poorly of.

We plant our own flowers in this life. Or, contrarily, we build our own gallows. Whatever words thoughts and actions we direct towards others will be reciprocated in our turn. The physics principle also applies to life: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It is to our own advantage to do good, not evil, for that is what we will eventually receive. Paul reminds us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

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