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Matthew 5:38-42 – 5. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 21:24

MT5:38 “You heard it said: ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’[1] [Exodus 21:24] MT5:39 But, I tell you: Do not resist[2] wicked authority. But, whoever slaps your right cheek,[3] turn to him the other. MT5:40 And, the one with a legal settlement against you for your inner garment, let him have the outer. MT5:41 And, whoever impresses you to go one mile,[4] go two. MT5:42 Give to those asking[5] and do not turn away from the one wanting to borrow.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (portret omstreeks de late jaren 1930)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence from Great Britain, and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.

[1] Eye for eye and tooth for tooth: Ghandi commented that all this Law did was make a world of blind persons. There is no case of this ever being done literally in the Hebrew Bible. The subject is “revenge” which the Nazarene discourages.

[2] Do not resist: The principle behind the Civil Rights Movement. Compare Romans 12:17 and 1 Peter 2:23: yielding. Most do not see the Nazarene teaching pacifism, others do. NJB ftn:

“The gospel does not forbid reasonable defense against unjust aggression.”

Though we do not find the Nazarene making use of this (John 18:22, 36).

The subject may be “wicked authority” represented in either the Roman occupiers or the harsh religious hierarchy. There are three examples within this context of “wicked authority”: a) an insult; b) legal matters; and, c) forced civil service. Here are the sources for “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile.” (Note Mark 15:21: authority)

Large outdoor gathering

World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, 2011

[3] Slaps your right cheek: An open-handed insult. The Nazarene experiences this (John 18:22).

[4] Impresses you to go one mile: Such rights by the State are current in most countries. For example, in the United States the police may command one’s vehicle or the fire department may impress one into fire-fighting.

[5] Give to those asking: A hallmark of the Nazarene’s teachings. Various renderings: MOF: the man who begs; WMS: keeps on begging. Compare Acts 20:35 in a rare allusion or quotation of the Nazarene by Paul. These include interest free loans (See Deuteronomy 23:19 and Luke 6:32-34: loans). Luke the Physician is stronger on this matter than Matthew the Tax-collector, the former discouraging loans completely and stressing giving. A real test on the Nazarene Saint is the pocketbook and is demonstrated in being ‘liberal’ (Romans 12:8, 13; 1 Timothy 6:17-19). The Nazarene Saint who refuses to share that good bounty God has given is in serious danger (James 1:27; 2:15-17; 1 John 3:16-18).

Luke includes the giving nearer the context of love for enemies. The Good Doctor includes interest free loans and not expecting any repayment (See Deuteronomy 15:7; Proverbs 21:26; Matthew 5:42: giving).

Does all of this suggest a commandment for all Friends of the Nazarene to divest themselves of their possessions or property? Judging from the descriptions in the Book of Acts this was not a command but a voluntary matter. Peter tells Ananias,

‘When it was unsold, did it not remain your property; and after it was sold, did not the value remain in your control?’ (Acts 5:4)

Peter nowhere argues:

“Did not the Nazarene teach you to sell everything and give to the poor.”

It was completely voluntary, though one can sense a degree of peer pressure from the Nazarene Community of Saints. Later when Paul argues these matters with the Corinthians and then with Timothy, he never resorts to the authority of the Nazarene about selling all. He merely tells Timothy, ‘To command the rich’ and then gives a list of strongly suggested items (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Certainly the Nazarene, and also God, encourage a “simple eye” on “guard against covetousness” (Luke 12:15), always remembering that the Father is paying close attention to how the Nazarene Saint uses material possessions.

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Preceding articles

Matthew 5:33-37 – 4. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Numbers 30:3

Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:10-14 – “What Shall We Do?”

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Additional reading

  1. In a world which knows no peace sharing blessed hope
  2. A man who cannot forgive others
  3. When discouraged facing opposition
  4. God should be your hope
  5. He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
  6. Ability (part 7) Thought about the ability to grow as a member of the Body of Christ
  7. When having taken a new direction in life, having become a Christian
  8. Priest, scribes and others with authority
  9. Many forgot how Christ should be our anchor and our focus
  10. Church sent into the world
  11. Fellowship
  12. Love is like playing the piano
  13. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love
  14. How do you keep people from stealing your joy?
  15. Work with joy and pray with love
  16. What Does Love Look Like?
  17. Overcome division with core values
  18. Cognizance at the doorstep or at the internet socket
  19. A true sermon is a real deed.
  20. How long to wait before bringing religiousness and spirituality in practice

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Further related reading

  1. City on a Hill
  2. Psalms 13: Has God Forgotten Me?
  3. 10 Biblical Passages That Radically Shape My Worldview
  4. Christians, It’s Time to Stop Saying “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”
  5. Chiseled for Change: Part 2
  6. Jesus interprets the Law through love
  7. Letting the Bible study you – Part three
  8. The point is…do you know Love?
  9. The hermeneutics of love – part two
  10. Jesus’ Subversive Kingdom – Part Four
  11. Give me dove’s eyes
  12. It’s Not About Chick-fil-A–It’s About You Standing For Christian Values
  13. Be Strong Be Courageous
  14. There is more to life than meets the eye.
  15. The heart has an ” inner eye ” …..
  16. With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony…
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Comments on: "Matthew 5:38-42 – 5. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 21:24" (7)

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