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Romans 12:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Recompense, etc. - Do not take notice of every little injury you may sustain. Do not be litigious. Beware of too nice a sense of your own honor; intolerable pride is at the bottom of this. The motto of the royal arms of Scotland is in direct opposition to this Divine direction - Nemo me impune lacesset, of which "I render evil for evil to every man," is a pretty literal translation. This is both antichristian and abominable, whether in a state or in an individual.

Provide things honest - Be prudent, be cautious, neither eat, drink, nor wear, but as you pay for every thing. "Live not on trust, for that is the way to pay double;" and by this means the poor are still kept poor. He who takes credit, even for food or raiment, when he has no probable means of defraying the debt, is a dishonest man. It is no sin to die through lack of the necessaries of life when the providence of God has denied the means of support; but it is a sin to take up goods without the probability of being able to pay for them. Poor man! suffer poverty a little; perhaps God is only trying thee for a time; and who can tell if he will not turn again thy captivity. Labour hard to live honestly; if God still appear to withhold his providential blessing, do not despair; leave it all to him; do not make a sinful choice; he cannot err. He will bless thy poverty, while he curses the ungodly man's blessings.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Recompense - Render, give, or return; see the note at Matthew 5:39. This is probably one of the most difficult precepts of Christianity; but the law of Christ on the subject is unyielding. It is a solemn demand made on all his followers, and it “must” be obeyed.

Provide - The word rendered “provide” means properly to “think” or “meditate beforehand.” Make it a matter of “previous thought,” of “settled plan,” of “design.” This direction would make it a matter of “principle” and fixed purpose to do what is right; and not to leave it to the fluctuations of feeling, or to the influence of excitement. The same direction is given in 2 Corinthians 8:21.

Things honest - Literally, things “beautiful,” or “comely.” The expression here does not refer to “property,” or to “provision” made for a family, etc. The connection requires us to understand it respecting “conduct,” and especially our conduct toward those who injure us. It requires us to evince a spirit, and to manifest a deportment in such cases, that shall be lovely and comely in the view of others; such as all people will approve and admire. And the apostle wisely cautions us to “provide” for this, that is, to think of it beforehand, to make it a matter of fixed principle and purpose, so that we shall not be overtaken and excited by passion. If left to the time when the offence shall be given, we may be excited and off our guard, and may therefore evince an improper temper. All persons who have ever been provoked by injury (and who has not been?) will see the profound wisdom of this caution to “discipline” and “guard” the temper by previous purpose, that we may not evince an improper spirit.

In the sight of all men - Such as all must approve; such that no man can blame; and, therefore, such as shall do no discredit to religion. This expression is taken from Proverbs 3:4. The passage shows that people may be expected to approve a mild, kind, and patient temper in the reception of injuries; and facts show that this is the case. The Christian spirit is one that the world “must” approve, however little it is disposed to act on it.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Since men became enemies to God, they have been very ready to be enemies one to another. And those that embrace religion, must expect to meet with enemies in a world whose smiles seldom agree with Christ's. Recompense to no man evil for evil. That is a brutish recompence, befitting only animals, which are not conscious of any being above them, or of any existence hereafter. And not only do, but study and take care to do, that which is amiable and creditable, and recommends religion to all with whom you converse. Study the things that make for peace; if it be possible, without offending God and wounding conscience. Avenge not yourselves. This is a hard lesson to corrupt nature, therefore a remedy against it is added. Give place unto wrath. When a man's passion is up, and the stream is strong, let it pass off; lest it be made to rage the more against us. The line of our duty is clearly marked out, and if our enemies are not melted by persevering kindness, we are not to seek vengeance; they will be consumed by the fiery wrath of that God to whom vengeance belongeth. The last verse suggests what is not easily understood by the world; that in all strife and contention, those that revenge are conquered, and those that forgive are conquerors. Be not overcome of evil. Learn to defeat ill designs against you, either to change them, or to preserve your own peace. He that has this rule over his spirit, is better than the mighty. God's children may be asked whether it is not more sweet unto them than all earthly good, that God so enables them by his Spirit, thus to feel and act.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 130

You are carrying a heavy load. I wish that everyone could feel this as I do. I wish that all your brethren would be true and faithful to you, not hindering you, not extolling or glorifying you, but looking upon you as one whom God is using as His instrument to do a given work, and remembering that they must not block the wheels, but must put their shoulder to the wheel, helping instead of hindering. 8T 130.1

Again I say: Rejoice in the Lord. Rest in Him. You need His power, and this power you may have. Go forward firmly, valiantly, courageously. You may err in judgment, but do not lose your hold on Jesus. He is wisdom, He is light, He is power. He is to you as a great Rock in a weary land. Rest under His shadow. You need wisdom, and Jesus will give it to you. Do not be unbelieving. The more you are jostled, misapprehended, misstated, misrepresented, the more evidence you have that you are doing a work for the Master, and the more closely you must cling to your Saviour. In all your difficulties be calm and undisturbed, patient and forbearing, not rendering evil for evil, but good for evil. Look to the top of the ladder. God is above it. His glory shines on every soul ascending heavenward. Jesus is this ladder. Climb up by Him, cling to Him, and erelong you will step off the ladder into His everlasting kingdom. 8T 130.2

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1081

11. See EGW on Mark 12:30. 6BC 1081.1

12. See EGW on Nehemiah 2:4. 6BC 1081.2

17 (2 Corinthians 8:21; 1 Peter 2:12). The Honest Are His Jewels Forever—Truthfulness and frankness should be ever cherished by all who claim to be followers of Christ. God and the right should be the motto. Deal honestly and righteously in this present evil world. Some will be honest when they see that honesty will not endanger their worldly interests, but all who act from this principle will have their names blotted out of the book of life. 6BC 1081.3

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Ellen G. White
Our High Calling, 226.1

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. Romans 12:17. OHC 226.1

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