Daily Word

Escalation, Equality, Grace | Matthew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not show opposition against an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other toward him also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

Matthew 5:38-42 (NASB)

You have heard it said…

Jesus continues His teaching about the Old Testament (OT) law and the proper way to interpret and apply it. “You have heard it said…but I say” is the structure of these teachings. The running list in this chapter is: 5:21 – murder; 5:27 – adultery; 5:31 – divorce; 5:33 – vows.

Justice in the OT

Human nature is to “get back” when someone hurts us (physically or emotionally)…and just a little more, “so they don’t do it again”. But the other responds just a little more and war results. God’s intent with the law of “eye for eye” was established to keep human nature in check, to provide equality in society and avoid escalation. The verse Jesus quotes is Exodus 21:24 which actually talks about injuring a pregnant woman when fighting with another man. The context in verses 12-32 talks about personal injury cases. If someone hurts you in some way, rather than escalation, stick with equality.

Application in Jesus’ day

Over time, the Jews had seriously taken the “eye for eye” out of context and applied it to personal relationships, following human nature. As we discussed above, they would “get even”…and probably a bit more.

Jesus’s view

As with the other “you have heard it said…” laws, they were put in place to accommodate and keep in check man’s sinful nature and tendencies. They weren’t intended to justify human nature. Jesus reminds His hearers of the best way, God’s intended way. The principle is: don’t oppose the evil person; humble yourself and trust the Lord. He gives four examples so we are certain to understand:

  1. Turn the other cheek. This is a common expression to indicate if someone harms you, we should show mercy and not take revenge or hold it against them. It’s so counter to our human nature and quite different than, “eye for eye”, yet it is God’s original intention – to love. Look at how He treats us if you want the best example!
  2. Give them your cloak. The implication is that someone is taking advantage or harming you in some way, by force. Don’t resist them, says Jesus. Trust the Lord is the ultimate judge. Bless them with kindness. That’s what God does to us (Romans 2:4).
  3. Walk the extra mile. Another common expression. Today it generally means do more than necessary. In Jesus’ time, any Roman soldier could demand of any Jew to carry their equipment for a mile. Jesus says, “carry it two miles”. Show them grace. Give them what they don’t deserve.
  4. Give to those who ask. Really Jesus? If anyone asks for something, give it to them? If a thief demands me to give him my wallet, I just turn it over to him? The homeless guys asks for some money. What if the one whose car I hit asks me to repair not just the bumper but the scratch not related to the crash? How far do we go?


  • How far are we willing to go to show grace…even to an enemy? Is our desire to obey and trust the Lord then pray for His will to be done in the situation? Or do we fear for our finances and own wellbeing and hold tightly to our things? How can we show grace to give what is not deserved?
  • Pray that our witness to our enemy by showing grace will soften their heart and give the Spirit an opportunity to get through to them.
Lady justice with scale. Image from www.cbc.cam *

🤞 May I notify you of new posts?

They'll be sent out as soon as new POSTs are created, which has been daily (hence the name) for over 15 years.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content