Parents are concerned about their children at school and the “peer pressure” they face. This is also something to be concerned about when they’re on the internet, on “social media,” etc. Our young people can be swayed to do things out of character for them. Sometimes this happens because they are in a large group of peers who are urging them in the activity. At times, it’s because a close friend, a boyfriend/girlfriend, and later a spouse, urges them. They need our support and encouragement to do what is right, even when they have to stand alone (Rom. 12:1-2). Have we instilled our children with the confidence to do what is right, and respect the teaching they received at home, even when it means standing alone (Eph. 6:4)?
Peer pressure doesn’t go away merely because we received a diploma. This is because regardless of our age, we have peers! We have people who want us to speak and act the same way “everyone else” does in order to fit in. Therefore, we still need to be able to stand and be faithful to God, even when it means standing alone!
I hasten to add that there are times when the “pressure” can be positive. Encouragement from our peers, a boyfriend/girlfriend, or a spouse, to do what is right is the exact thing we need (Heb. 10:23-25; I Pet. 3:1-6)! There are some folks who, no doubt, have helped us because they were standing as encouragement at a time when we needed to make a hard decision.
There are many in the Bible who, I believe, could say, “Yes, I have experienced the positive and negative sides of peer pressure!” Two from the book of Esther show us what it means to stand for God even when it means standing alone. They are Mordecai and Esther! Mordecai faced negative pressure, while Esther had encouragement to do what was right when she met a hard choice. Let’s study these events in detail.
Mordecai stood literally and figuratively for his principles. In Esther 3:2-4, Mordecai refused to bow down to the king’s “second-in-command,” Haman. We aren’t told his reasoning but are told that he refused to bow and refused to yield even after others came to him and spoke to him “daily” about his refusal. Mordecai had made up his mind, and he would not give in to the pressure he faced even when this meant death! What a model for us. It would’ve been much easier for him to have given in and bowed, but he refused.
Esther stood in another fashion. She entered bravely into the king’s presence when uninvited (Est. 5:1-2). In chapter four, we learn why this was an act of bravery. It’s because it was a capital offense to approach the king uninvited (Est. 4:11). She was truly taking her life in her hands to approach Ahasuerus when he didn’t call for her. Yet, the situation demanded it -- her nation was going to die if she didn’t (Est. 3:12-15). It would’ve been much easier for Esther not to approach the king’s throne, but she did it anyway (Est. 4:16-5:2).
Examine your past decisions (II Cor. 13:5). When faced with serving God or making friends mad, did we give in to those who pressured us to sin? Did we stand and refuse them (Jas. 4:7)? Have we ever been the encourager to one who needed encouragement to serve God? We will not get out of this world alive, nor will we get out of this world alone (Rom. 14:7)! Let us face the pressure Satan puts on us with dignity and let us help others who are feeling this pressure. Let us help one another to fight the good fight of faith (Jas. 1:14-15; Matt. 10:42; I Tim. 6:11-12).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Haman was chosen to serve as “second-in-command” under Ahasuerus (Est. 3:1-2). This was a position of honor and respect, but Haman allowed this power to go to his head. When surrounded by the servants and others who bowed (3:2), he seemed content. However, to witness just one man at the gate who refused to bow, he became “full of wrath” (3:5). His wrath set off a “chain reaction” of events that would finally end with his death (7:10). (Ironically, his death satisfied another’s wrath, but this will be covered in a future writing.)
Why did this occur? When Haman had so many that bowed to him, why did it bother him that only one didn’t? It seems that the presence of the servants and “yes-men” served as too much of a temptation for Haman. He would have 100% allegiance from the people, or he was going to know why not! Mordecai’s reasons for refusing to bow are not stated here, though. Regardless, Haman demanded obeisance from every person, and to refuse would be met with harsh punishment. In this case, Mordecai’s refusal to bow was Haman’s excuse to commit genocide! This attitude exists in the man who has allowed his power to corrupt him.
Contrast Haman’s attitude with the attitude of men like Joseph, Daniel, even King David! These, and many more, did not allow earthly power to corrupt them. They knew they were serving a God who was higher than them. In contrast, Haman acted as if he were his own god!
Let us remember that regardless of what position we hold on earth, we are just servants of God. We are still God’s creation (Gen. 1:26-27; Jas. 3:9b). We still have a Master to please (I Thess. 4:1; Col. 1:10). We will all fit in the same six-foot hole, and we will all stand before the same Judge (Heb. 9:27; II Cor. 5:10)! Don’t let power, position, or prestige on earth go to your head! Stay humble (I Pet. 5:5-6; Jas. 4:6)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Four times in the book of Esther, Haman was called the Jews’ enemy (3:10, 8:1, 9:10, 24). This description was given to Haman for one simple reason; he planned on killing all of the Jews. His motivation? Anger! Haman was angry at Mordecai, and he allowed his anger to boil over until it reached a point that he didn’t want any Jewish person to live (3:5-6).
Anger is the catalyst for much evil today. It is for this reason that we are warned not to allow anger to lead us into sin (Eph. 4:26-27). Elders in the Lord’s church are told not to be “soon angry” since it is evident that anger will not produce any good (Titus 1:7). Man’s anger doesn’t work God’s righteousness (Jas. 1:20)!
Men allow anger to cause them to justify sinful actions, but we need to remember that anger puts us on a “slippery slope” to worse sins (Col. 3:5). Anger was Haman’s motivation to kill not just one man, but an entire race of people! Today, men allow anger to fester until they lash out against others verbally and physically. Anger has been man’s justification for murder today, just as it was Haman’s!
The book of Esther shows us the consequences of unrestrained anger. By contrast, God is slow to anger (Ps. 145:8). Let us be slow to anger as well (Prov. 16:32; Jas. 1:19).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Please read Esther 2:11, 19, and 10:1-3. In these passages, we read of Mordecai’s love and oversight for those who were in his charge, first for his cousin, Esther, and later when he had oversight of his nation.
While Esther prepared to meet the king, Mordecai stayed as close as possible so he could see to her welfare and do what he could to help her. Years later, when awarded a place of power, we see him still looking out for the best interests, not of one person, but an entire nation. The Jews were not going to suffer at the hands of a tyrant again if he could help it!
Observing Mordecai’s growth in Esther two and ten reminds me of what Jesus taught in the parable of the talents. To the five and two talent men, the master told them, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (Matt. 25:21, 23). It was because these men proved themselves wise with less that they were eventually given more responsibility. We can see a similar truth with Mordecai. He started with caring for one person, but he ultimately rose to a position of seeking the well-being of his nation.
It is the same in the church. For example, men desiring to be elders must first show they can rule their own houses well, and raise faithful children before they can have the responsibility of overseeing a congregation (I Tim. 3:4-5; Titus 1:6). Though not identical, deacons have similar expectations (I Tim. 3:12).
We must start “small” and grow in the Lord. Are you growing (I Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14)? What goals do you have for spiritual growth in 2020?