There were a lot of things that went through my mind when I first saw this scene in the movie. But one thing I am not accustomed to is seeing a grown woman being slapped in the face by her mother. At first, watching Mrs. Younger shake her daughter and insist that she repeat the words: "In my mother's house, there is still God!" may seem like a bit much. This is not a ten-year-old child. This is a grown woman who is applying to medical school. But there is biblical evidence to support the idea that Mrs. Younger's reaction was necessary and appropriate.
I am reminded of John MacArthur's book, The Vanishing Conscience, in which an entire chapter is titled, "Hacking Agag to Pieces." You may remember the story in 1 Samuel 15. Saul was commanded to kill the Amalekites and spare no one. But instead Saul spared Agag, King of the Amalekites, along with the best of the livestock. When Samuel discovered what Saul had done, he rebuked Saul and the Bible simply says he took out his sword and "hacked Agag to pieces."
A bit extreme, no? Samuel didn't have to get so gruesome, did he? Why not simply strike Agag with a sword? Was it really necessary to hack him to itty bitty pieces? The gory scene is indicative of what God wants us to do with our sin. MacArthur states in his sermon, "Hacking Agag to Pieces:"
There are some Amalekites running around loose in everybody's life. We all have our Agags. And the problem in our Christian lives is not that sin has not been defeated with a crushing defeat, it has but there is still remaining sin. There are some loose iniquitous Amalekites in all of us. And though there was a great and glorious and triumphant defeat at the time of our salvation, there is the necessity that the remaining sins be hacked to pieces or they will revive, they will plunder our hearts and sap our spiritual strength. We cannot be merciful with the Agags of our life. We cannot be merciful with the remaining sins in our life or they will turn and create an insurrection and a rebellion to attempt to destroy us.
Sometimes our sins are "just a matter of ideas." We are unhappy in a marriage, and we have an idea: "God doesn't want me to be unhappy!" Before we know it, we have an affair. Perhaps we are struggling with trials. We have an idea: "The Christian life doesn't work!" Before long, we have stopped reading our Bible and given up completely. In Beneatha's case, the idea is that there is no God, and since there is no God, she thinks she deserves the credit for everything she's ever achieved. This is a powerful example of idolatry. Beneatha has literally pushed God off the throne and has seated herself on it instead. Beneatha's idolatry is obvious. But when we choose to keep certain little sins as "pets," we are committing idolatry as well. Truly, Beneatha has a problem that goes far beyond "a matter of ideas". But what about the rest of us? What ideas have we chosen to spare, when God has ordered us to hack them to pieces?
When we consider Samuel's reaction to Saul's decision to spare Agag, we can see why Mrs. Younger reacted the way she did to these "ideas." And we should have the same attitude toward these types of ideas in our own lives. Racism, sexism, murder of the unborn, sexual perversions, and other types of rebellion are justified in our society today because they are simply viewed as "a matter of ideas." If we do not labor tirelessly to hack these ideas to death, we will see them make their way into the fabric of the church. Matthew Henry puts it nicely in his commentary on Colossians 3:
It is our duty to mortify our members which incline to the things of the world. Mortify them, kill them, suppress them, as weeds or vermin which spread and destroy all about them. Continual opposition must be made to all corrupt workings, and no provision made for carnal indulgences. Occasions of sin must be avoided: the lusts of the flesh, and the love of the world; and covetousness, which is idolatry; love of present good, and of outward enjoyments. It is necessary to mortify sins, because if we do not kill them, they will kill us.