“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”
– Matthew 5:38-42 (Jesus speaking; our 10th segment of the Sermon on the Mount)
If it wasn’t clear in the preceding examples, Jesus makes it crystal clear in this one that while Moses gave a civil code to regulate ancient Israelite society, Jesus is teaching a way of living that can guide a human heart in any age.
To say “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” is another way of saying, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” In other words, don’t over-penalize some crimes, nor under-penalize others. This principle works fine if your goal is societal justice. However, Jesus came to solve the problem of evil at its root: the human heart. Another way of putting it is that Jesus didn’t come to tell everyone what to do – He came to tell you what to do.
Jesus’ teaching was designed for practice by individuals. When people try to make it into a social code, they distort and corrupt it. For example, a political party will state as a platform principle that they exist to help the poor and will sometimes even invoke Jesus as an authority for their stance. Yet the result of such posturing is to remove the possibility of individual generosity by coercing money from the citizenry to shower upon the party’s reliable voting blocs. Jesus is telling you to be willing to give up your coat, not to take away everyone else’s.
A government must have a criminal code with appropriate penalties; it cannot afford to turn the other cheek. An individual, however, has the opportunity to do what Jesus did in His own life: turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, let me not be a judge of others; the government exists for that purpose. Rather, let me do as You did, which is be quick to forgive…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)