Week of September 1 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Matthew 5:38-42

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 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. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 

Reflect: What was the original meaning of “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth” (Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:17-20)? How was this law being twisted by the religious teachers of Jesus’ day?

Consider: As many people do today, the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day must have taken the “eye for an eye” passages (Exod. 21:24; Lev. 24:19–20; Deut. 19:21) as justification for hurting others at least as badly as they had been hurt. The law was not given to exact revenge, but to legislate justice. Breaking the law has consequences, but personal vengeance has no place. These passages have often been wrongly taken as a minimum guideline for retaliation. What Jesus clarifies is that they were always intended as a maximum or a ceiling for retaliation, and that mercy was always an acceptable intention underlying these laws. For the kingdom servant, legalistically “letting the punishment fit the crime” and insisting upon a “pound of flesh” falls short. We must actually consider blessing the repentant criminal. Mercy (withholding deserved punishment) and grace (giving undeserved gifts) are legitimate norms of conduct.4

Respond: How did Jesus’ interpretation of this law differ from the Pharisees’? How did this raise expectations for His followers? What stands out to you about the four examples Jesus gave His followers in verses 39-42? How do these apply to our lives today?

4  Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 69.