Church of Christ
Locks Cross Roads
13) Matthew 5 - How to meet evil and overcome
HOW TO MEET EVIL AND OVERCOME
Matthew 5:40 And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. This is
a question of property or possessions, not an involvement of conscience or life.
Coat would be better translated tunic, or that inner garment over which the cloak, or heavy outer robe was worn.
For maximum effect, Jesus is probably assuming that the person He addresses has the legal right to both the tunic
and the robe in the question at law. The cloak could not be taken even overnight as a pledge from a poor man
(Exodus 22:26-27), because it was such an important item of clothing.
Jesus advocates that His followers be ready to give up without litigation even that which, by law, could not be taken.
From the ethical standpoint, that meek surrender of one's right to fight for his possessions gives an unselfishness
and dignity that rises above petty claims (1st Corinthians 6:1-8, Hebrews 10:34)
This, however, is no prohibition of seeking justice through the courts, since defending one's rights by law may also
be necessary and right for serious and truly important cases (Acts 16:35-39, Acts 22:25-29, Acts 25:10-11).
Jesus' prohibition intends to discourage that selfish preoccupation with holding possessions that fails to look beyond
self to see the true needs of one's opponent.
Deep love and true concern for him who would wrong you must take precedence over your just rights and claims.
Thus, Jesus is not completely forbidding His followers to go to court for any cause, but rather is challenging their
motives for so doing.
Matthew 5:41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two. This compulsion of which Jesus
speaks is a historic allusion to the right of those in government service, whether postal couriers or occupation
soldiers or others, to impress anyone into service to help them carry forward their own mission (see Matthew 27:32).
Naturally, such impressments would be galling to a subject people as well as inconvenient and fatiguing. Going that
mile (1000 paces) might mean shouldering a soldier's baggage. To the hypersensitive Jew this defiling contact with
a Gentile would also be a forced self-contamination.
Do twice as much as is asked of you! Comply cheerfully in excess of the demand. No sullen, complaining spirit!
Considerate helpfulness is the key: no compulsory work which necessarily limits your freedom is to be resented or
done hatefully, even if it is Roman work to be done.
This exhortation of Jesus is the third illustration of the general principle, "Resist not him who is evil."
Anyone who lays some obligatory service upon you, you need to react in the Heavenly way. Humanly we react
against this obligation and constriction of our liberties. We react without reflection upon the needs, immediate and
relative as well as eternal and absolute, of him who thus forces us to work.
The foregoing three examples have explained the principle from a negative standpoint: do not seek revenge, do
not litigate, do not render grudging service; and from a positive "doubling" formula: be willing to suffering again,
surrender more and help twice as much as is asked.
Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. This
exhortation of Jesus must be considered within the frame of reference in which it was given. The Law had
commanded this kind of open-handed generosity to be directed to any countryman who, being impoverished, was
no longer able to sustain himself without help (Exodus 22:25-27, Leviticus 25:35-46, Deuteronomy 15:7-15,
Deuteronomy 23:19-20). It is within this merciful helpfulness that Jesus urges this open-hearted response.
Jesus is picturing in these four vivid strokes of the brush how He intends for His disciple to master his own heart by
keeping himself free from those natural emotions which too often lead to sin (Romans 12:17-21, 1st Thessalonians
5:15, 1st Peter 3:3, 1st Peter 2:21-24, Isaiah 50:6, Proverbs 20:22, Proverbs 24:29).