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 the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Understanding And Applying the Text

Here Christ corrects another misunderstanding of the Law. Jesus refers back to Exodus 21:23-35, Leviticus 24:19-20. Deuteronomy 19:21

According to the Law, the punishment should fit the crime. The Law limited punishment. It prohibited the idea from the movie “The Untouchables” In that movie Malone says: “They pull a knife you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.” That is a violation of the law. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. it is not two eyes for an eye. It was not two teeth for a tooth. Eye for eye tooth for a tooth was not an allowance for vengeance.

Christ corrects the misapplication of the Law. God’s Law states judges should punish those who had done wrong. Individuals used the Law to justify personal revenge. Christ corrected that misunderstanding. Judges were to administer justice. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, not us.

Christ said do not resist the one who is evil. There are several ways to understand this passage. First do not resist evil in any way. Do not avoid it. Do not speak against it. Let it go. It is clear this is not what Christ meant. We are to protect ourselves and others and property from injury without using revenge. Christ’s words do not prevent us from preventing an attack. (Proverbs 4:15, 1Timothy 6:20, Titus 3:9, Jame 4:7 1Peter 5:9) Scripture tells us to resist the devil. We are to avoid evil. While we are to resist evil but we are not to go out looking for a fight.

Some have misinterpreted Christ as saying not to defend themselves or others. But notice Christ examples are about actions after an attack not before or during an attack. You have already suffered server insult. You have already lost the court case. They have already forced you.

The examples Christ gives help us understand the meaning. The first was a slap on the right cheek. This referred to a grievous insult. It was a slap with the back of the hand. We are to absorb that insult. And prepare for another. We are not to lash out. If you lose in court you are to comply and go beyond the minimum. In the first century, a Roman soldier could compel a civilian to carry his load one mile. This was the law. We may think it unfair. We may not agree. But it is the law. We are to compile. There are many, many laws that are unfair and unjust. Yet Christ tells me to comply. I am to go beyond the minimum. My allegiance is to Him. I must follow the Law because He tells me to comply.

Only when we start to break this passage into pieces do we lose the meaning. Taken as a whole we see Christ refers to taking vengeance. There are other scriptures relating to arguing and fighting. (Titus 3:1-11; 2 Corinthians 13:11 Romans 12:16-18)

The best interpreter of this passage is Paul. He states “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21) When someone wrongs us we should not, harbor hatred or ill-will. We are not to lash out nor injure. Not only are we to bear the injuries we receive.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *