One summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. He was tired and hungry. The waitress had just served three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclist - of the Hell’s Angel’s type - decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his French fries and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it.
How did this trucker respond? How would you respond? Well, this trucker did not respond as one might expect. Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the register, and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the till and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night.
When she returned, one of the motorcyclists said to her, “Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?”
She replied, “I don’t know about that, but he sure isn’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot.”
-Sometimes, revenge seems really sweet. So, why would Jesus make such outrageous statements as the ones found in these verses? It sounds like He is saying, “Just lie down and die. Just take whatever is dished out to you. Be a doormat for people to walk on. Let people abuse you and degrade you in any way they choose.” However, Jesus is again using a common method of speaking called hyperbole. Hyperbole is exaggeration to prove a point. A few verses ago Jesus was talking about gouging out your own eye and cutting off your right hand to avoid sinning. He was using hyperbole, exaggeration for the sake of making an important point – STAY AWAY FROM SIN!
-In today’s passage I believe we can see some hyperbole, but that doesn’t mean that we are off the hook. Sometimes it is too easy for us to say, “Oh! I see your point. Well said.” We pat ourselves on the back for our depth of understanding, but then go off and forget to apply what we’ve heard to the way we live.
-To be a strict literalist with these verses would be to contradict some of the other teachings of Jesus, as well as some of Paul’s teachings. It might help us know how to apply this teaching if we understand that Jesus was dealing with issues of His day. Remember that Jesus and His audience were Jews and that Christ was addressing the hot issues and controversies of the day, including how to apply the Old Testament Law to that day and age. As we will see, Jesus is trying to help His listeners see that they do not need to cash in on their legal rights at the expense of their witness. In fact, not availing ourselves of all our rights may provide opportunities for others to see an accurate picture of the good and generous nature of God! Maybe another way of saying this is ”Don’t be stingy with God’s grace.”
-The bottom line principle of what Jesus was saying in this passage is this: We must be more concerned with showing the generous love of God than with receiving proper treatment from others.
This is seen in 4 ways.
I. Gracious people are willing to accept insults
38 "You have heard that it was said, ’Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
-In nearly every culture, a slap in the face is the ultimate insult. The Mishnah (Jewish traditions based on the 5 books of Moses called theTorah) has this to say about injury and insult: If anyone wounds his fellow, he becomes liable to compensate the injured party for five different aspects of the injury: damage, pain, healing, loss of time from work, and insult....
-During the time of Jesus, Jewish rabbis were debating this fifth point of compensation, namely, compensation for insult. Let’s say somebody insulted you by slapping you (possibly with the back of the hand since most people are right handed, or with the unclean left hand in that culture). Could you take them to court and get some money out of them? Jesus said NO, but the rabbis apparently said YES because this became part of the Mishnah sometime in the 2nd century AD.
-Jesus was saying "take the insult and ask for more."
-This passage is usually seen as a call to nonviolence and that we should never retaliate. While those things are generally true, this passage may be more about not taking someone to court over a disagreement. If someone humiliates us should we try to get money out of them, making them pay for what they did, or should we show them the undeserved kindness that comes from the very heart of God?
-I’m not real anxious to accept insults (or to be slapped in the face). It’s not fun. However, I must ask myself, “How important is it for people to see the grace of God in my life?” I can strike back physically, I can strike back verbally, I can strike back legally and financially – but are people going to see the real Jesus through my actions?
-Instead of suing a person for every possible infringement, Jesus urges grace and space. Give people the space to be human. Realize that some people insult others to cover up their own wounds and insecurities.
-Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When someone insults you, don’t get violent; don’t get smart or nasty with your words; and don’t try to exploit someone financially in any situation.
-Let’s take a look at the next point which is closely related to this.
II. Gracious people value people more than things
40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
-The Law of Moses did not allow the outer garment to be taken from a person since it protected them from the cold.
-The tunic, was the long, sack-line inner garment made of cotton or of linen. The poorest man would have a change of tunics. The cloak was the great, blanket-like outer garment which a man wore as a robe by day, and used as a blanket at night. Most Jews had only one cloak. Jewish law allowed that a man’s tunic might be taken as a pledge, but not his cloak. Exodus 22:26,27 tells us, “If ever you take your neighbor’s garment in pledge (his cloak), you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down; for that is his only covering, it is his mantle for his body; in what else shall he sleep?” The point is that by right a man’s cloak could not be taken permanently from him.
-But Jesus says that if someone lays claim to your tunic because of a debt you owe them, don’t go to court over it. Just give it to him and offer your cloak as well. Perhaps this was to express your intent to repay what you owe. Remember, Jewish law would bring him back to you before sundown, giving opportunity for relationship to develop, and perhaps a repayment plan to be agreed upon.
-Nevertheless, even if the cloak was a permanent loss, it would be a sign to the other person that you value your relationship with them more than you value material possessions. Better to take a moderate loss and stay on good terms with others than prove your point or win your case, but lose the opportunity to show God’s generous nature to them.
Let’s move to the next verse and talk about the extra mile, which really sums up what we’re saying here today.
III. Gracious people are willing to serve beyond obligation
41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
-Roman Law gave Roman soldiers the ability to appoint any non-citizen to walk one Roman mile (l,000 paces), carrying his supplies. Christ says go beyond - walk two miles. Jesus was telling the people to joyfully do what was repulsive to them, helping out the Romans who dominated them.
-The Roman practice of commandeering civilians to carry military equipment or a soldier’s personal items was especially infuriating to the Jewish population of Palestine. Jesus alludes to this practice, but rather than stirring up outrage or resentment he charges his followers to volunteer for extended service. Once again Jesus assumes a new starting point for human relationships based upon kingdom principles that even responds to humiliating situations by doing good.
-What would shed the most light on the goodness and grace of God? Reluctant, spiteful, rude service because you have to, or cheerful, willing, gracious service? I think the point is clear. Be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to demonstrate God’s love and generosity.
IV. Gracious people are willing to give to those in need
42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
-Deuteronomy 15:9-11: “Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”
-These OT verses very well may have been the situation Jesus was referring to when He said, “Give and do not turn away….” Jesus was not talking about giving handouts to every stranger or pan-handler around. He was saying that we do have a responsibility to loan money or offer help to responsible people we know (destitute because of circumstances beyond their control) whether we will be paid back or not.
-Now, lest you persist in thinking that Jesus is saying to give up all your rights, give everything away, and let people walk all over you, notice the limitations in each of these areas. Turn the other cheek vs. let someone beat you to a pulp. Give up both your tunic and your cloak vs. giving away everything you own. Walk the extra mile vs. walking all day or until the soldier no longer needs you.
-The limitation or boundary in verse 42 concerning giving and lending is found in your ability to give or lend without hindering the welfare of your family as well as in the legitimacy of the need. If someone does not manage their finances well and expects you to bail them out every time, you are enabling them to be irresponsible if you give or lend to them. Give them real help. Offer to help them set up a budget or point them in that direction so they can become a good steward over that with which God has blessed them. This is not limiting God’s grace. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about giving to the persecuted and impoverished Church, he said, “12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.” 2 Corinthians 8:12-13.
-Want to help someone in need? Give it if you have it. Don’t if you don’t. But remember to always be generous with the grace of God and the blessings He has poured out on us.
Conclusion: As we close, are you more concerned with showing the generous love of God than with receiving proper treatment from others? Are you willing to take insults if it shows how patient and kind God is? If we allow the way others treat us to stop the flow of grace through our lives, everybody loses. We lose, and those who need to know who God is lose an opportunity to see Him in you. Do you value people more than possessions? Are you willing to serve beyond what is required or expected of you? How open-handed are you when it comes to helping those in need?
-These are issues between you and your God. I hope you will take the words of Jesus to heart. He isn’t calling us to be a doormat that people walk all over, but He is calling us to hold the door so people can look in and see how great and how gracious our God is.