Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law (ESV).
Next, let’s contemplate the struggles that come from the schemes of in-laws. This happens when, for whatever reasons, parents, aunts and uncles or siblings begin to interfere in a couple’s marriage, or just want to cause them trouble. Mother-in-law jokes abound about the wife’s mother. But as one counselor wittily observed, “You don’t hear mother-in-law jokes about the husband’s mother, because it’s not a matter for jokes.” Whether or not you agree with that chestnut, it is a rare couple who can say that they never had an in-law problem. Here are two biblical examples of this problem.
- The troubles that came between Jacob and Laban. Here was a case of two crooked schemers matching wits and both losing. Both were miserable and had a hard life, and eventually came to a sad parting. Laban did not want his son-in-law to succeed.
- The jealousy of Saul against David. Here David was godly and innocent of wrong against his father-in-law, but Saul had turned his back on the Lord and was jealous of David. Saul could never get over his jealousy, and caused his son-in-law years of sorrow and deprivation. If it happened to the man after God’s own heart, don’t be surprised if it happens to you.
How can we form a biblical pattern of response?
- Do not descend to the level of your interfering in-laws. If not for God’s sovereign mercy, Jacob would have had nothing and perhaps even died at Laban’s hand (Genesis 31:23-29, 43-53). But do not presume that God will bail you out. We must remember that the storyline of the Bible shows how God’s purpose triumphed in spite of huge opposition. The hero of the story is God, and not the people who we read of in the story. Looking for the same outcome they received can be spiritually dangerous. Also, never judge the righteousness of your actions by the apparent outcome or how you feel. The Holy Scriptures alone set forth God’s standard of righteousness.
- Allow God to be the Judge. Do not take matters into your own hands, but trust God to do the right thing. This is the pattern of action that David followed (1 Samuel 24 & 26). This can prove to be very difficult because our emotions operate in overdrive when family members are involved.
Here is an important principle. It is our duty to obey God and let him handle the consequences. We may do the right thing and suffer for it, but at the end, he will reward our faithfulness. You are living for more than the next few years. Keep eternity in view. And beware of seeking revenge. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good (Romans 12:17-21 CSB).
Grace and peace, David