1 Peter – Chapter Three XXV

by Ed Urzi

“For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17).

Although this verse begins one of the most challenging portions of the New Testament, it starts with a concept that is easy to grasp: if it is necessary to endure suffering, it is preferable to suffer for doing good than doing wrong. In the words of one commentator…

“…if it is God’s ‘will’ for us to suffer misunderstanding, abuse, or bullying, ‘it is better’ that that suffering be for good conduct (‘doing … right’ than for bad (‘doing … wrong’; cf. Rom. 8:28). Peter probably meant these words as assurance rather than as admonition. He meant that we are much better off, when we suffer, than the evildoers are who oppress us.” (1)

As mentioned earlier, this passage reminds us that God’s Word does not deny the existence of genuine suffering. Instead, the Scriptures acknowledge the fact that we may endure conditions that are unethical, discriminatory, inequitable, wrong, and/or unfair. We can illustrate this passage by returning to a scene from the life of Jacob, the great Old Testament patriarch, and his devious father-in-law Laban.

Whenever Laban saw an opportunity to serve his best interests, he seized that opportunity with no apparent concern for anyone who might be negatively affected by his actions. For instance, Laban once tricked Jacob into marrying both his daughters in exchange for fourteen years’ worth of free labor.

Jacob and Laban later entered a business arrangement,  but Laban repeatedly attempted to change the terms of their agreement to benefit himself. Unfortunately, Jacob’s experience with Laban was not unusual, even today, for it is not uncommon to find employers who follow Laban’s example. The New Testament book of James also makes reference to those who acted in a similarly inappropriate manner…

“Listen! Hear the cries of the wages of your field hands. These are the wages you stole from those who harvested your fields. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of heavenly forces” (James 5:4 CEB).

If we find ourselves in a similar condition, we can learn something important from Jacob’s experience with Laban. Jacob did not grumble or complain about the inequity of Laban’s treatment. Instead, he worked hard and patiently waited for God to address the situation. Then he remembered to honor God for His provision. Thus, Jacob lived out the words of Psalm 118:6 before they were written: “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

(1) J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter, p. 192. Quoted in Notes on 1 Peter 2023 Edition, Dr. Thomas L. Constable https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1peter/1peter.htm