Matthew 5:38-42 “An eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth”

Matthew 5:38-42 “An eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth”

     “Vengeance is mine says the Lord”  Rom. 12:19 quoting Deut. 32:35. Vengeance is mentioned 45 times in Bible. The world in the day of Jesus (or today!) would not take this approach to justice (They would say, “Vengeance is mine!”). God has ways of exacting justice. In the Bible, this reference is always connected with the civil courts. Note: The text tells us up front who the good and bad persons are. “Do not (you) resist the evil person.” Why does God put this in the hands of the civil court system? Because we might want an eye for a head. The context refers to settlements of issues, not pacifism. If we are being robbed, I want to defend my home. Jesus is dealing with the regular things that happen in our lives.

I.  The Tradition Taught:

These are taken out of many OT references-Ex. 21:24, Lev. 24:20, Deut. 19:21, etc.

“Eye for an eye”

1)  They could determine what was the right punishment. BUT the intention was to limit or restrict it from being unfair.

2)  It was a personal law. BUT the intention was let your rulers sort it and award a fair settlement. (Rom. 13:1-5-What is the context here?) How to overcome evil with good. 

3)  They took the Law of “eye for an eye” and put it on small thing (not the big injustices). BUT the intention was take care of the little things by yourself (settle) but use the court for the big things. What is our reaction supposed to be according to Jesus? Meekness (the 3rd beatitude) 

II.  The Text Teaches:

Jesus gives 4 examples of how this works in everyday life in v. 39-42

1) “strikes you on the right cheek”- insult of the worst kind because it is the right hand backhanding a right cheek.

Answer-Do not avenge yourself but possibly prepare for another (bear it patiently-forgive it and forget it)

     1. Let us trust God and His providence to protect us in the way of our duty.

     2. Forgiving of an insult may prevent another.

     3. Our justice is really in God’s hands who can reward us now or in eternal glory.

2) “If someone wants to sue you”(v. 40)  The implication is that this is unfair. The evil person treats you unfairly.

Answer: “let him have your coat as well.” It will not cost that much to buy another cloak but court costs will.

3) “If someone forces you to go one mile,” (cultural issue). A Roman soldier could force a Jew to carry his luggage or materials for one mile and no more. The Jews of importance were usually exempt (Roman law).

Answer: “go with him two miles.” Jesus says exceed what is expected when called upon for difficult situations.

4) “Give to the one who asks you… borrows from you” The evil person here could be us if we don’t give. The first person is one who asks but never returns the favor or says thank you. The second person may have borrowed from you before but never returned what he borrowed.

Answer: Be available to give and lend to others not expecting anything in return. This is not a call, however, to carelessly give to support someone’s addiction.

III. The Truth Applied:

1.  Our reaction to wrongs in our lives is in a spirit of meekness.

2.  Our response for justice will fall short when we are reminded that God has not demanded justice of us  (He forgave us when we deserved death.).

3.  Our resource is seen by the example of grace and mercy through Jesus.



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