Jesus here warns against legal retribution (vv. 38-39) and goes so far as to undercut legal resistance altogether with a verse that, if followed literally, would leave most Christians stark naked (v. 40). He also advocates not only compliance but actual cooperation with a member of an occupying army who might be keeping you from your livelihood (v. 41), as well as with the beggar or others who seek our help (v. 42). (Taking the last verse literally would also break most of us financially. Consider how many requests for money come in the mail each week!) If Jesus is not genuinely advocating nudity and living on the street-that is, if he is speaking the language of rhetorical overstatement (5:18-19, 29-32; 6:3)-this still does not absolve us from taking his demand seriously. Jesus utilized hyperbole precisely to challenge his hearers, to force us to consider what we value.
Jesus' words strike at the very core of human selfishness, summoning us to value others above ourselves in concrete and consistent ways. Some misread this text as if it says not to oppose injustice; what it really says, however, is that we should be so unselfish and trust God so much that we leave our vindication with him. We have no honor or property worth defending compared with the opportunity to show how much we love God and everyone else. By not retaliating, by not coming down to the oppressors' level, we necessarily will appear unrealistic to the world. Jesus' way scorns the world's honor and appears realistic only to those with the eyes of faith. It is the lifestyle of those who anticipate his coming kingdom (4:17).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
Upgrade to remove banner ads and unlock new features!
For the best Bible Gateway experience, consider an upgrade to Bible Gateway Plus. For less than the cost of a latte each month, you'll get reduced banner ads and a huge digital Bible study library. Try it free for 30 days!