Numerous passages in the book of Proverbs speak of those who do harm to themselves. Sexual sin, refusing God's wisdom, bitterness, pride, disobedience, and theft are all accounted as actions whereby a human being can "destroy his own soul" (Proverbs 6:32; 8:36; 11:17; 15:32; 19:16; 29:24). Thus, "self destruction" is not a completely invalid concept despite the Apostle Paul's teaching that "no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it" (Ephesians 5:29). The key to our understanding of the matter involves the realization that outside spiritual influences play a role of instigating and encouraging us to act against our natural tendency of of self-preservation. Consider bitterness as an example.
"To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices" (II Corinthians 2:10-11).
When tempted to a harsh and unforgiving attitude toward those who offend us, we may feel as if the matter is simply human. "So and so hurt me, and I don't like it! It's just the way I am, and I'm one of those people who has a hard time being merciful!" (join the club, the club of the entire human race!). As born again believers, we know that bitterness harms not only the person who grieves us, but also ourselves and possibly many others (Acts 8:23; Hebrews 12:15). We may nevertheless find ourselves greatly challenged regarding our Heavenly Father's calling to extend grace and mercy to offenders, even as the Lord Jesus Christ commanded His disciples, "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44). No mandate of Scripture more calls us to a pinnacle of character and behavior than this calling to forgive even as we have been forgiven. Moreover, we know that bitterness poisons our souls. Why then do we find the calling so difficult? Again, we are inherently weak in matters of mercy, as James teaches regarding our fleshly impulses (James 4:1). However, Paul also instructs us: Satan is involved. He seeks to "get an advantage of us". The matter involves not only ourselves, but rather those spiritual enemies against whom we "wrestle" (Ephesians 6:10). They tempt us to bitterness because they are well aware that a merciful believer reflects his or her Savior with a clarity of light and glory that brightly reveals the grace of God. The matter thus involves not merely our human weakness, but also the demonic effort to thwart the expression of Christ's love through us.
We must not be ignorant of Satan's devices. We presently live our lives not only with the Lord and people, but with malevolent spiritual entities allowed by God to challenge us. Perhaps we find ourselves troubled by the actions of another human being. We've been hurt by words, actions, inactions, attitudes, or any number of ways whereby people offend people. We know our calling to extend mercy, but everything within us seems to flow with the current of carnal bitterness. What do we do? Allow me to suggest to my other heart and to yours, let us get our spiritual dander up! Someone is trying to hurt us even more than the human offender whose actions brought pain to our doorstep! The love of Christ indwells believers to enable the mercy that must govern our attitudes and actions toward offenders. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are fountains of sweet water rather than bitter. Our enemies tempt us to believe otherwise, and seek to keep us ignorant of their devices. We must therefore arise in God's Truth to realize that the conflict we feel within involves not only our fleshly human tendencies, but also devilish temptations. If we harbor bitterness, we poison our own soul as well as those of others. We self destruct, as it were, but not without the origination and perpetuation of our unseen spiritual enemies.
To "fight the good fight of faith", we must identify our enemies (I Timothy 6:12). Realizing that our native tendency does not involve self destruction helps us to see the true nature of the conflict in which presently must engage ourselves. If we do not know and consistently remember this, Satan will gain an advantage in our lives, the advantage of keeping his assaults so veiled that we may think we are attacking ourselves. Such awareness should get our spiritual dander up, and cause us to look to the Captain of our salvation for His presence, leadership, and enabling to overcome, and to realize that any attitudes or actions whereby we harm ourselves originates in entities other than ourselves.
"Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight, my goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and He in whom I trust."
Weekly Memory Verse
He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.