Session #041 Repayment Plan
Scripture Matthew 5:38-42
Summary Familiarity with the phrase “an eye for an eye” or “turn the other cheek” may not necessarily mean that one understands its context or meaning. In Matt 5:38-42, Jesus showed how the Law of Retaliation had become the Law of Tit-for-Tat. But living and led by the Holy Spirit, kingdom subjects have a different repayment plan.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to 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 away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. Matthew 5:38–42
There is a sense of justice and fairness that exists in all of us, or at least we think we are being just and being fair. The problem is that our hearts are deceitful and selfish. As such, our repayment plans often end up terribly wrong.
What Does Jesus Our King Say? What is the Repayment Plan of the Kingdom of God?
Origin of the Law in the Old Testament
Before Israel entered the Promised Land, the “law” of the Land was that everyone did what was right in their own eyes, personal justice, and revenge, taking things into their own hands. This led to “An Endless Cycle of Retaliation”.
Then came the Mosaic Law, The Law of Retaliation “lex talionis”, that a punishment inflicted should correspond in degree and kind to the offence of the wrongdoer, as an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; retributive justice. Detailed examples are found in Exodus 21:22–25, Leviticus 24:17–22 and Judges 1:6–7.
False Witnesses were deterred in the accounts of Deuteronomy 19:15–21, to safeguard against false witnesses, there must be two or three witnesses; and careful investigation by priests and judges. If the witness is false, lex talionis will apply. What he sought against the innocent party will be applied to him.
The Law was a radical and real advancement that set Israel apart from the people of the land. Personal actions of retaliation, revenge and retribution were prevented. Individuals could seek justice and punishment must fit the crime.
You Have Heard That It Was Said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ (Matthew 5:38).
By the time of Jesus, the law was abused and misused. “Life for life” was separated from other statements as only capital punishment is referred to the judicial system. But for other matters, the individual can apply the law by themselves.
“A law that was designed to prevent actions of personal retaliatory revenge is now used to justify it.” People were using the law to sue others, to demand compensation, to seek justice, to protect their rights. It became “The Law of Tit-for-Tat”
Jesus declares, “You’ve got it all wrong.” You have interpreted this wrongly.
But I Tell You …
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person (Matthew 5:38-39).
Do not resist an evil person or retaliate against such a person who is morally questionable, selfish and unreasonable; and spiritually dead or immature.
This evil person, who refuse to hear My words [disobedient to God], who follow the dictates of their hearts [concerned only with self-fulfilment], and walk after other gods to serve them and worship them [idolatrous], shall be just like this sash which is profitable for nothing (cf Jeremiah 13:10).
If that is not radical enough, Jesus does not stop at non-retaliation. He moves from passive response to positive action.
Our tendency is to STRIKE back, or to SUPPRESS ourselves but Jesus says, “SURPRISE them.”
The Four Situations That Jesus Cited
Verbal Abuse, Slander, Gossip: Do Not Defend.
But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also (Matthew 5:39b).
A back-handed slap is twice as insulting to the Jew. He can slap back “slap for a slap” or he can go to court and sue this person for “slander” or “libel” or “defamation”.
Today’s equivalent might be direct insults, name-calling, sarcastic or careless remarks or a backhanded compliment. The response might be to fight back, to shout back, to gossip behind the person’s back, or to avoid this person altogether. But Jesus says, “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Do not retaliate. Do not protect yourself. Let him have his day; and bless him.
Jesus is NOT telling us not to protect ourselves against physical abuse such as rape or violence. Do not take this literally and let others slap you over and over again.
Unreasonable Disputes or Claims: Give More Than Required.
If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also (Matthew 5:40).
The Law encouraged lending without interest, just a pledge (Exodus 22:25-27). Honour the person by not barging into his house to take the pledge, and it has to be returned at sundown as well (Deuteronomy 24:10-13). If there is a dispute, the lender can take the borrower to court, demanding the pledge, the tunic.
In today’s context, such as a personal loan or agreement between two persons (not with banks or financial institutions), it is an honour system by which parties in an interaction are expected to honour trust granted to them by other parties.
But what if there is an unreasonable claim and dispute? What should you do? Jesus says “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.” Give the person more than required.
Unreasonable Demands & Requests: Do More Than Necessary
And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two (Matthew 5:41).
In Roman Law, any Roman could compel or force a person in the conquered land to carry a load for one mile. The Jews hated the Romans, hence would comply not willingly but grudgingly. An example was seen in Matthew 27:32 when Simon of Cyrene made to carry the cross for Jesus.
In today’s context, it may be an unreasonable boss who gives you more work than others, or at the last minute; or any unreasonable request that takes up time, energy and effort, that causes you inconvenience. Jesus says, “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” Just do it and more.
Material or Money Assistance: Give without any Repayment Plan
Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away (Matthew 5:42).
The Law encouraged giving and helping the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7–10). Pharisees and scribes practised this but worked in a system of repayment with high interest. But Jesus says, “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” do not even expect to get anything back (Luke 6:34–35).
In today’s context of “a poor man of your brethren”, it may be a brother or sister in need; or someone who has lost a job. Our part is to give and not question them about what they do with the money. Give without expecting anything in return and so not gripe about it. This principle is not limited to money and maybe other items as well.
When offended, insulted or unjustly treated, do not retaliate. Instead, determine to bless. This is an extension of the beatitude “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9). It is only possible when one walks according to the Spirit, and not the flesh (Romans 8:14).
Offerings of peace may result in more suffering as others see it as a sign of weakness to be taken advantage of, and Paul teaches the same thing (Romans 12:17–21).
Obey the words of Jesus, and let God be the judge. God has the best Repayment Plan. In the passage. “Coals of fire” in the Egyptian rite is to carry hot coals on the head as a sign of repentance. The one you help may be brought to repentance when he experiences your goodness.
The Onus is on the One who is Spiritual
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted (Galatians 6:1).
“You who are spiritual” are identifying you who have the Holy Spirit and are led by the Spirit “these are sons of God”, who are the peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). As children of God, we are to exhibit fruit of the Spirit against works of the flesh.
An Expected Response of Kingdom People
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8–9).
This is a summary statement after declaring the Christian’s identity (1 Peter 2:9-10) and how we are to conduct ourselves in the world (1 Peter 2:11-12).
Submission to Government: “by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15).
Submission to Masters (unreasonable bosses) that “ when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20).
Submission to Husbands (unreasonable men) “that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, maybe won by the conduct of their wives … with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…” (1 Peter 3:1, 4).
Submission to Wives (unreasonable women), “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding” (1 Peter 3:7).
Submission to One Another as brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Peter 3:8-9).
The words and teachings of Jesus reveal the true standard of the law and God’s righteousness. It is radical and difficult to achieve on our own strength and willpower. It is only possible with a heart yielded to the Master and one led by the Holy Spirit.
Thankfully, we have a perfect example in the One who not only set and taught the standard but also lived it.
For to this, you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness— by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:21–25).