Summary: Believers must be willing to give up their rights to security, retaliation, time and money in our service to others.

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Jesus Speaks On Rights

Matthew 5:38-42


A. Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775.

1. No legal authority but had to make decisions because of military events between colonists and British.

2. By end of 1775, independence was almost inevitable.

3. Mistrust of the whole British society.

4. January 1776, news that British were sending German troops.

5. Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, an English pamphleteer called for complete independence.

6. Congress appoints a committee to justify independence and asked youngest member, Thomas Jefferson, to prepare a draft.

7. His statement has inspired oppressed people for many years: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

B. Since this time people’s rights have expanded.

1. During the 1950’s and 1960’s we witnessed Civil Rights’ movements for blacks and women.

2. Children and unions push for their rights.

3. We also witness prisoners, gays and those in favor of abortion rights push their agenda.

C. People are overly concerned with their rights and privileges.

1. Too much interest in self and protecting self.

2. Natural characteristic of the sinful nature possessed by unbelievers and the fleshly tendencies Christians still have.

3. Want revenge and retaliation for those who infringe on our rights.

4. If this is our chief concern then anything that gets in the way becomes disposable.

5. Causes us to trample on the rights of others.

6. No room for concern for others when self is number one.

D. This passage has been misinterpreted and misapplied.

1. Been used to support pacifism, conscientious objection, lawlessness and anarchy.

2. Tolstoy, Russian writer, based War and Peace on this passage.

3. Thesis was that elimination of police, military and other forms of authority would lead to a utopian society.

E. Jesus tells about rights we must be willing to give up in service to him.


A. “Don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other too.”

B. Eye for an eye and tooth for tooth comes from the O. T.

1. Known as the principle of lex talionis.

2. Punishment should exactly match the crime.

3. Purpose was to curtail further crime and prevent excessive punishment that might come from personal vengeance and angry retaliation.

4. Curtail human propensity to seek retaliation or vengeance beyond what the offense deserved.

5. Some countries (strict Muslim) still use this law; you steal they cut your hand off.

C. Teaching had been perverted by the religious leaders.

1. Each person was allowed to become their own judge, jury and executioner.

2. Used the law as a command for vengeance, revenge and retaliation.

D. Jesus says not to resist.

1. Not saying not to take a stand against evil.

2. He is speaking of personal retaliation (Martin Luther King, Jr. in America and Mahatma Ghandi in India both used the teachings of Jesus in their peaceful demonstrations for their rights).

3. We are tempted to get more than even when wronged.

4. Vengeance belongs to God and God’s standard is, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

E. Not teaching to let evil run rampant.

1. The Church must resist evil.

2. Believers must resist it in our personal lives and in our world.

3. Jesus is referring to evil people who harm us.

4. Not to be characterized by vengeful retaliation.

5. We are to overcome someone’s evil toward us with good.

F. What Jesus is not saying.

1. Not saying we don’t have a right to be treated with dignity, respect and consideration.

2. Emphasis is on our reaction when mistreated.

G. Jesus says to turn the other cheek.

1. In Jewish society slapping was the most demeaning and contemptuous thing that someone could do.

2. Attack on one’s honor and a terrible indignity.

3. Means to have non-avenging, non-retaliatory, humble and gentle spirit.

H. Jesus doesn’t teach what he doesn’t model.

1. He resisted evil toward others but not towards himself.

2. Peter says, “While being reviled, he did not revile in return; while suffering, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously.” (I Peter 2:23)

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