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 an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42

I’ll never forget the time my mother came to visit when I was in the seminary. We had some time to kill so I took her on the tour of the James J. Hill mansion in St. Paul, MN. The moment I remember is when the docent was telling us about the ornate woodwork in the staircase.

As she told us that it was handcrafted in Boston or wherever, then disassembled and shipped to the mansion for reassembly, my mom whispered to me, “Yeah, and they were probably working for 5 cents an hour.” Who thinks like that? Who would say that, at that moment? Only a person who had been poor her entire life. Perspectives matter.

Those of us who worry more about our weight than we do our ability to afford groceries this week read these verses and get uncomfortable. Oh Jesus, now you’re meddlin’!

Plenty of people believe that what Jesus advocates here is precisely what is wrong with the world today. Too many people expect something for nothing. Too many people stand with their hands out. Not to mention too many people getting away with stuff when they ought to get locked up forever. These are the folks (or the moments in our own lives) when we find this joke funny: What do you call it if you loan $20 to a friend and never see them again? A good investment.

On the other hand, I remember a time when I was in dire straits and I asked someone for a loan who turned me down. I remember not having winter gloves in the middle of a North Dakota winter and no way to get them. I remember the time my mom’s boss sent her home from work with a bag filled with a football, a baseball glove, a basketball, and some baseballs. And I read about the social devastation, especially in African American communities, of the harsh penalties meted out for relatively minor infractions in the so-called war on drugs.

Jesus was preaching good news to the poor and they were hearing him loud and clear!

So what will it be? Which way of being wins this one? A dog eat dog world where justice looks like retaliation, where you get what you deserve, and everyone is out for their own best interests? Or another way of being, where violence is rejected, justice is tempered with mercy, and generosity assures a basic level of “enoughness” for all?

We actually know where the world landed on that one. A cross. And not far from there, an empty tomb, ever reminding us that God isn’t going to give up on us nor will God disregard the poor.

Which world do we choose to live in today?

Let us pray: Thank you Lord that none of us get what we deserve. Thank you for mercy, shown to us, and shown through us. May your love so rule in our lives that we see everything from a different perspective – we see hope, we see dignity, we see a beloved community. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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8 Responses to “Matthew 5:38-42”

  1. Georgene Says:

    Thank you.

  2. David Armstrong Says:

    Pastor, you called it like it should be and I like that. Your message touched my heart today.

  3. Marthe Hildreth Says:

    I have a real problem with “giving to everyone who begs from you.” In our city we have a large number of beggars, and almost daily they hold out a sign meant to pull at your affluence and give them money. I have to look away. Why? 1. With a daughter in law enforcement, I know what they use the money for: drugs, sex, and beer. They also have been known to grab for your wallet when you lower the window and inflict bodily harm. And 2. The truly needy are never out in the broiling hot medians of the streets. They are looking for jobs and have found the avenues we have in place for them in our city. Of course, that is never enough. I do give to local charities and LWR. But how do I handle the inevitable pangs of guilt when those drugged eyes turn upon me to support their habit?

    • Kara Says:

      It doesn’t say to give them money. You can give them food, a hug, respect, some shoes. Whatever you give do it with love and mercy knowing that your gift could be the thing that gives them hope for the day.

      • Marthe Hildreth Says:

        I’ve seen people offer food to them. They accept it but that requires contact which I am unwilling and fearful to give. I guess I’ll just have to live with the conflict of emotions.

  4. Jane Says:

    Pastor, I look forward to your postings. The subject matter as well as comments from readers always gives me food for thought.

  5. David Armstrong Says:

    Well said! You hit the nail on the head. I look forward to reading your devotions every day….

  6. Carolee Groux Says:

    It is not easy to turn the other cheek, to give your cloak as well as your coat, to go the second mile not just the first mile, to give to everyone who begs from you, and don’t refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. This is difficult scripture to follow. But we are restored by faith to trust in God’s word.

    1 Peter 3:8 tells us “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”
    I pray with you Pastor: Dear Lord, may God’s love so rule in my life that I will see everything from a different perspective – I will see hope, dignity, and a beloved community. Amen.

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