Matthew 5:38-42

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

RETALIATION

INTRODUCTION:

 

Both the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount tell us of God’s expectations for people. They both show us that we are not good enough for God. They both show us that we are sinners who need to be saved. Both require perfection.

 

Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

 

The problem is not with the law or with the Sermon on the Mount. The problem is with sin in the human heart. We cannot keep the law, and we cannot keep the Sermon on the Mount.

 

In Matthew 5:38-42 , we see that Jesus taught that people who are retaliating and not forgiving are guilty of sin and on their way to a Christless eternity in hell.

 

Matthew 5:19-2019 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

Verse 19 indicates that keeping the law and teaching it to others in the manner in which it should be taught is very important. This is also indicated by for in verse 20 which implies that what Christ says in verse 20 is illustrating what He has just said.

 

Jesus had been showing that the righteousness of the kingdom is in complete harmony with the moral principles enunciated in the Old Testament. In verse 20 Jesus showed that this righteousness was not in harmony with the current and traditional interpretation and application of God’s law.

 

Jesus showed that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is inadequate in God’s sight as contrasted with another righteousness in which God delights.

 

The scribes and the Pharisees have adopted and taught the same wrong meaning taught by the ancient rabbis. This means that they were not teaching the original intention of the law with its proper application.

 

Immediately after making this statement Jesus becomes very specific. He has shown in verses 21-26 what Thou shalt not kill has been interpreted by the ancient rabbis to mean, and then He has shown what it really means.

 

He has shown in verses 27-32 what Thou shalt not commit adultery has been interpreted by the ancient rabbis to mean, and then He has shown what it really means.

 

Jesus has shown in verses 33-37 how the law concerning oaths has been interpreted by the ancient rabbis, and then He has shown what it really means.

 

In verses 38-42 Jesus shows the false interpretation of the law when it comes to retaliation with the true interpretation of the law of retaliation. Then in verses 43-47 Jesus will summarize the second half of the Ten Commandments. Finally, in verse 48 Jesus will show the necessity of perfection in one’s life.

 

Rather than contradicting the law or overthrowing the law, it is apparent that Jesus is pointing out and condemning the evil disposition of the heart that lies at the root of the sin.

 

Accordingly, Jesus is demanding a righteousness which is nothing less than complete conformity with God’s holy law in all that a person is and in all that a person does.

 

In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus deals with the subject of retaliation. According to 5:38 the ancient rabbis have taught that an eye was to be taken for an eye and a tooth was to be taken for a tooth. However, Jesus teaches in 5:39-42 that personal vengeance should never be taken, not when someone does something evil to you, not when someone takes you to court, not when someone requisitions or forces your service, and not when someone asks you for money or asks to borrow something from you.

In verse 38 we see –

    I.     THE TEACHING OF THE ANCIENTS - 5:38

 

Matthew 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

 

In verse 38 Jesus refers to another statement which the ancient rabbis made in the past and which was continuing to be made by the scribes and Pharisees.

 

Ye is you (plural) and refers to the ones listening to the Sermon on the Mount and is applicable by extension to all those who read it.

 

Have heard is heard, and it has been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.

 

What the people have heard is that it hath been said, i.e. that it was said. Again Jesus is not criticizing what the law said but how it was being taught to the people.

 

It was said by them of old time refers to the ancient rabbis. Jesus was not teaching something new. He came to fulfill the law rather than to change it. The ancient rabbis had taught something God never intended.

 

The scribes and Pharisees were continuing to teach the same thing that the ancient rabbis had taught.

 

What has been said is, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. It is literally, Eye in exchange for eye, and tooth in exchange for tooth.

 

The scribes and Pharisees were teaching that an individual could retaliate for personal wrong done to him by someone else, but this is not God’s intent in the Old Testament.

 

Their teaching was based on Exodus 21:24-25 .

 

Exodus 21:24-25 – (24) Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, (25) Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

 

Their teaching was also based on Leviticus 24:20 .

 

Leviticus 24:20 Breach for breach [i.e. fracture for fracture], eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish [i.e. an injury, whether a fracture, eye, or tooth] in a man, so shall it be done to him again.

 

These were laws laid down for the civil courts in order that the practice of seeking private revenge might be discouraged. The Old Testament passages do not mean that we are to take personal revenge whenever we are wronged. They mean the exact opposite; they mean, Do not avenge yourself but let justice be administered publicly. This is clear from Leviticus 24:14 .

 

Leviticus 24:14 Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.

 

This is also made clear from Deuteronomy 19:15 , 21.

 

Deuteronomy 19:15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

 

Deuteronomy 19:21 And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

 

The teachers of the law had shifted the emphasis of these commandments with the result that they were appealing to this law to justify personal retribution and revenge.

 

However, the Old Testament repeatedly forbids personal vengeance as does the New.

 

Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.

 

Proverbs 20:22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save [i.e. deliver] thee.

 

Proverbs 24:29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.

 

Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

In verses 39-42 we see –

  II.     THE TEACHING OF JESUS - 5:39-42

 

We note that –

Vengeance should never be taken –

 

            1.   When someone does something evil to you – 5:39

 

Matthew 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

 

Jesus forbids the taking of personal retribution and revenge.

 

But introduces a statement in mild contrast to verse 38.

 

I is Christ and is emphatic.

 

I say is I am saying, I am declaring, or I am asserting.

 

Unto you is referring to Christ’s hearers in the Sermon on the Mount and includes those who read it.

 

Jesus begins His statement in verse 39 and continues it through verse 42.

 

He forbids taking personal vengeance.

 

That ye resist not evil is that you not set yourselves against evil, that you not oppose evil, or that you not withstand evil.

 

Evil is the evil in the Greek text and may be masculine or neuter.

 

If it is masculine, it means the evil one and refers to the one who does evil to you.

 

If it is neuter, it means the evil thing and refers to the evil thing which has been done to you.

 

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to that ye resist not evil.

 

Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek is whoever (or everyone who) slaps you on your right cheek.

 

Rather than retaliating, Jesus instructs His listeners, Turn to him the other also, which suggests, Also turn the other cheek to him. Rather than retaliating by slapping him back or worse, Jesus’ listener is to permit the person to slap him again. Jesus was teaching that we should not strike back at the person. Commit the matter to the Lord, and let Him deal with it.

 

What Jesus is showing is that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The purpose of the law is to point out that all persons are sinners in danger of punishment in hell. Jesus has just pointed out to these people that seeking personal retribution and revenge is sin.

 

Who among the inhabitants of earth has not been unforgiving or vindictive at some time or other in his life? Therefore, all humanity stands guilty of sin before God and deserving of spending eternity in hell.

 

But someone might say, That’s not the way I am. If someone smites me on my right cheek, I am more inclined to beat the daylights out of him. That’s precisely the point. The problem is that we are all guilty of sin. Jesus is showing that we are sinners in need of salvation. We cannot keep the Sermon on the Mount any more than we can keep the Ten Commandments.

 

We also note that –

Vengeance should never be taken –

 

            2.   When someone takes you to court – 5:40

 

Matthew 5:40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

 

In verse 40 Jesus continues His teaching against retaliation as is indicated by and.

 

If any man will sue thee at the law is to the one who wishes (i.e. desires or wants) to go to law with you (which implies to take you to court).

 

And take away thy coat is to take (i.e. to take possession of or to acquire) your tunic (or your shirt, i.e. the garment worn next to your skin).

 

It indicates the purpose of him suing you. Coat has been placed in a position of emphasis in the Greek text, which reads literally, And your shirt to take.

 

Let him have thy cloke also suggests leave (or leave behind) your cloke (or your robe, i.e. your outer garment) also (i.e. in addition to your inner garment).

 

Again, this would not be the natural tendency of anyone.

 

Instead, the natural tendency would be retaliation, which demonstrates the fact of sin in the heart and the need for salvation.

 

What Jesus is saying is that we have no right to hate the person who tries to deprive us of all of our possessions. Love toward him should instead fill our hearts and reveal itself in our actions. We should not seek to take vengeance on him. We should not demand repayment. Turn the matter over to the Lord, and let Him deal with it.

 

But someone might say, That’s not the way I am. I am going to fight for my rights. Again, that’s precisely the point. I have an old sin nature; therefore, I need to be saved. Jesus is showing that we are sinners in need of salvation. We cannot keep the Sermon on the Mount any more than we can keep the Ten Commandments.

 

In addition, we also note that –

Vengeance should never be taken –

 

            3.   When someone requisitions (or forces) your service – 5:41

 

Matthew 5:41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

 

An official could compel someone to carry his baggage for one mile.

 

And continues the thought of verse 40.

 

Whosoever is whoever or every one who.

 

Shall compel thee to go a mile is requisitions (or forces) you to go one mile.

 

Go with him twain is go with him two (miles).

 

Rather than being resentful of his pressing you into service, accept it; and volunteer to go more than you were required to go. We should not refuse to comply. Turn the matter over to the Lord. Let Him deal with it.

 

The attitude of annoyance at the inconvenience of being pressed into service shows a resentful bitterness in the heart and demonstrates that this person is a sinner who needs to be saved.

 

But someone might say, That’s not the way I am. I won’t go any farther out of my way than I absolutely have to and then I am going to sue for expenses. Again, that’s precisely the point. Jesus is showing that my attitude demonstrates me to be a sinner in need of salvation. We cannot keep the Sermon on the Mount any more than we can keep the Ten Commandments.

 

Finally, we note that –

Vengeance should never be taken –

 

            4.   When someone asks you for money or asks to borrow something from you – 5:42

 

Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

 

Verse 42 continues the thought of how Jesus’ listeners should react when annoying requests are made of them.

 

Jesus’ statement presupposes that the individual has a genuine need, that he is in genuine distress over this need – not just trying to take advantage of you, not wanting to consume it on alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Watch out that you are not enabling someone to do something sinful. There are also scammers who take advantage of Christians. They prey on churches. Remember Paul’s statement in II Thessalonians 3:10 .

 

II Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

 

Give is be giving, and its tense indicates continuing or repeated action in present time.

 

To him that asketh thee is to the one who is asking you. To him that asketh thee has been placed in a position of emphasis in the Greek text, which reads literally, To the one who is asking you (or keeps asking you), be giving.

 

And continues the thought of the first half of this verse.

 

From him that would borrow of thee is from the one who is wishing (i.e. desiring or wanting) to borrow from you.

 

When someone in distress asks for assistance, don’t turn a deaf ear to him. On the contrary, give, not grudgingly, but generously; lend, not selfishly, looking forward to being repaid with interest, but liberally or generously. Now don’t merely show kindness, be kind.

 

Turn not thou away is do not begin to turn away or never turn away. Him that would borrow and of thee have been placed in positions of emphasis in the Greek text, which reads literally, The one who wants from you to borrow, do not begin to turn away.

 

Someone thinks, But I get tired of giving. Let him ask someone else for help instead of me. One final time, that’s the precise point Jesus is trying to make. Jesus is showing that we are sinners in need of salvation. We cannot keep the Sermon on the Mount any more than we can keep the Ten Commandments.

CONCLUSION:

 

So what do we see? We see that, before God, there is much guilt over sin because of breaking the spiritual intent of the commandment regarding retaliation in that we are not willing to turn the other cheek, in that we are not willing to endure wrong in a lawsuit, in that we are not willing to go out of our way to do what is right, and in that we are not willing to help someone in distress. Therefore, we also see that all those who are guilty are deserving of spending eternity in hell.

 

Praise God, we also see God’s provision of salvation and forgiveness of sin.

 

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

 

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Romans 10:9 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 

Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

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