Vol.IX No.VII Pg.7
September 1972

You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Is a Christian to give all or load all he has to anyone who asks? Is Matt. 5:42 to be taken literally, or does it teach an attitude of mind?


Let us put the passage in its context: Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil: but

whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. (Matt. 5:38-42, A.R.V.)

Jesus is teaching against taking vengeance or retaliation. Put positively, Jesus urges mercy, with good grace and cheerfulness in the place of resentment. A Christian returns good for evil, unselfishly.

Extreme literalism would serve neither the contextual purpose of the teaching, nor the actual examples in Scripture. (Pulpit Commentary says, We may notice that while our Lord most perfectly observed the spirit of this command, he did not slavishly follow the letter of it (cf. Jn. 18:22-23). Nor did St. Paul (cf. Acts 16:35-ff: 22:25; 23:3; 25:9-10))

The limited mercy of the tit for tat principle —(and eye for eye was a limitation upon the vengeance which a judge could assess)— was now to give way to the more noble principles of Christ, whereby man learned to practice the agape love which God manifests toward His creatures.

Business loans are not under consideration here. Christ sanctioned the making of money with money— via interest (Matt. 25:27), and in such loans sound business principles would have to prevail. Nor do I believe Jesus was urging indiscriminate giving. Note; 2 Thess. 3:8-10; Titus 3:14. Some are unworthy of our assistance, and we are told not to encourage them in their lazy unproductive ways.

The Old Testament laws regarding usury or interest do not, in my opinion, forbid business deals for such. Special consideration was given the brother over strangers (Deut. 23:19-20), but usury laws were aimed particularly against profiteering on the ill-fortune of others, or so as to make capital of others desire to serve God. (See Lev. 25:35-f. Neh. 5.) Now Jesus goes to the heart of these earlier laws: showing that measured retaliation, and giving (without usury) to brethren is not enough. We are to cultivate a generous, unselfish, 2nd. mile attitude far exceeding anything found in the Old Law.

Give to him that asketh of thee is in the same vein, and teaches the same general truth as Resist not him that is evil... turn to him the other also... let him have thy cloak... go with him two. It establishes an ideal toward which we can spend a lifetime of seeking, pressing, and striving. As certain also of our own poets have said, The gift, without the giver, is bare,