Matthew 5:38-42, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
When someone makes us angry or does wrong to us, the first thing we want to do is make them angry or hurt them. Our natural desire is to get revenge. The people in Jesus’ day were no different. Imagine how many hearts were pricked when Jesus spoke about doing good for and loving those who hurt us. Only God can give us the strength to love people this way. It’s not our natural will but the supernatural will of the Father.
v. 38 – “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…”
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 19:21, “Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” This original law was given to judges to use to administer punishment that was fair to their crime. However, people in Jesus’ day in time were using this principle to justify their own personal vengeance or vendettas. Jesus clears up this misunderstanding and gives us 3 examples of how we can love and show mercy instead of revenge.
1. v. 39 – “But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…”
What would you do if someone slapped your face? You would probably want to slap them right back. But Jesus is saying that if someone does this to us, we should let them slap the other cheek. There probably won’t be very many instances where we get slapped in the face but the world will slap us with insults. “Jesus is here saying that the true Christian has learned to resent no insult and to seek retaliation for no slight. The true Christian has forgotten what it is to be insulted; he has learned from his Master to accept any insult and never to resent it, and never to seek to retaliate.” (Barclay) Tough words to swallow. But God has commanded his followers to be set apart (Rom. 6:22) from the world and to do that we must start by loving those who hurt us.
2. v. 40 – “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
Most people in that day only owned one cloak and 1 or 2 tunics (a long garment). Jesus is saying that when someone sues for your tunic, you should give your outer cloak too. D.A. Carson explains, “The follower of Jesus will throw in the outer coat as well, even though this latter garment was recognized by Jewish law to be an inalienable possession.” Carson goes on to explain the principle, “Even those things which we regard as our rights by law we must be prepared to abandon.” The point here is that Jesus doesn’t want us to get wrapped up in defending every single right we have. He would rather us abandon our coats to meet the required debt than to offend our opponent. Are we so tied up in clinging to the things of this world rather than the things of God? As followers, let us abandon our cloaks for the cause of Christ. “Jesus replaced a law with an attitude; be willing to suffer loss yourself rather than cause another to suffer.” – W. Wiersbe
3. v. 41 – “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
In that day, a Roman soldier had the legal right to seize a civilian to help him carry his burdens such as equipment or weapons for one mile. Jesus is addressing this particular issue because most everyone he was speaking to had probably walked that mile on one occasion or another. An example is Simon of Cyrene being picked from a crowd to carry Jesus’ cross. Why would Jesus tell his followers to walk 2 miles instead of the already dreaded mile? Barclay explains, “What Jesus is saying is: ‘Don’t be always thinking of your liberty to do as you like; be always thinking of your duty and your privilege to be of service to others. When a task is laid on you, even if the task is unreasonable and hateful, don’t do it as a grim duty to be resented; do it as a service to be gladly rendered.” Jesus wants us to help carry the burdens of others (Gal. 6:2) with a cheerful and right attitude of heart. He even wants us to be cheerful and joyful through our persecutions and trials. He doesn’t want us to be bitter or angry about the situations laid upon us. The only way we can achieve this is through God’s holy, supernatural spirit. God will use this area of your life to prune and define you. Will you pass the test?
- “Jesus calls for a revolutionary response in a difficult situation – cheerfulness. The kind that would cause a hardened soldier to say, ‘What’s with him? This person has something I do not understand.’ Ridiculous? Impractical? Pollyannaish? I do not think so! This is the way Rome was won! Revolutionarily righteous people possessing revolutionary joy even when treated unfairly call everyone’s hearts upward.” – Kent Hughes
v. 40 – “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Jesus’ message here is that we should give cheerfully and willingly. We should not loan to every person who comes along but when we see someone in need we should not be a “penny-pincher” but give to them with love and generosity. Jamieson says we should, “measure our giving by Christ, who gave everything, rather than by laws or percentages.”
These commands seem impossible. And they are if we are trying to walk in the flesh. Only the supernatural spirit of God can help us to resist the evil person and allow us to love as Christ loved.
Transform our hearts, minds & lives that they may reflect you. When someone hurts us, give us the strength to show them love instead of hate. When someone strips us of our pride, help us to show humility. When someone asks us to carry their burdens, help us to do this with joy. Set us apart for your glory. In your Son’s name, Amen.