*A subject debated, misunderstood and the cause of much confusion.


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 an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is in the Old Testament. How many times have you heard that said? People say it as though they intend to carry it out.

However, this law did not involve a private individual. It was a law laid down for a JUDGE in the law court to assess punishment and penalty. Called the Lex Talionis, the original aim was the LIMITATION of vengeance. It was never (at least in any semi-civilized society), carried out literally. What came forth was a money value assessment. The person responsible for the injury had to pay the fee.

In this scripture, Jesus abolishes the old law of limited vengeance and introduces the new spirit of non-resentment and non-retaliation.


According to Jewish Rabbinic law, to slap a man with the back of the hand was double the insult. Jesus was saying the true Christian learns to resent no insult and to seek retaliation for no slight. OUCH!! Jesus was insulted and much worse, of course, during his time on earth.

The tunic and the robe are even harder. Even the poor had at least one tunic, maybe two. But a robe was worn during the day and then used as a blanket at night. There was even a law if you legally took someone's robe or cloak, you must give it back at night for him to have a blanket.

The 3rd issue could be called OCCUPIED COUNTRY. Palestine was an occupied country. At any time a Roman soldier's sword could tap a Jewish man's shoulder and require his service. The soldier could require him to carry his heavy equipment for a mile. Jesus was saying, don't just do the minimum, go the extra mile. Carry the soldier's equipment 2 miles and do it cheerfully.

Lastly, giving must not be refused. Barclay stated it was better to help fraudulent beggars than to risk turning away one person in need. I agree with that. But where do we begin, then where do we draw the line? I do know once you believe the Lord wants you to give the money, it's up to the person to decide how to use it. Of course the Lord always knows the end from the beginning. When we used to travel back and forth to Florida, we often saw people begging near stop signs and traffic lights.

Can we really do these things for Jesus? Of course He was serious. Nothing Jesus teaches is impossible. Have you watched young children be upset with each other? "She hit me first! He pulled my hair so I bit him, etc." Retaliation begins at a young age.

May God give us grace to understand and obey His precious Word.

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