Be merciful in all circumstances | Matthew 5:40-41

**Please be sure to read all around this passage so that you are getting it in context; and as always, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the understanding that He would have you see. Passage: Matthew 5:40

40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.  (NLT)

Thoughts:

Here we have the same concept as in the prior verses but now Jesus is taking it to a different playing field. He's trying to show us that this idea of passiveness or nonresistance works in all aspects of life. Each time he is directly addressing instances that were real to the people he spoke with. Also note that he is not giving them a new concept but bringing them back to a truth that was always there. (Exo 22:26-27)

26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as security for a loan, you must return it before sunset. 27 This coat may be the only blanket your neighbor has. How can a person sleep without it? If you do not return it and your neighbor cries out to me for help, then I will hear, for I am merciful. (NLT)

Now let's set the scene culturally...

The poorest people of the Empire (e.g., most peasants in Egypt) had only an inner and outer garment, and the theft of a cloak would lead to legal recourse. Although conditions in first-century Palestine were not quite that bad, this verse could indicate divestiture of all one’s possessions, even (*hyperbolically) one’s clothes, to avoid a legal dispute affecting only oneself. Jesus gives this advice in spite of the fact that, under Jewish law, a legal case to regain one’s cloak would have been foolproof: a creditor could not take a poor person’s outer cloak, which might serve as one’s only blanket at night as well as a coat (Exo_22:26-27). IVP Bible Background Commentary

Having ones outer garment taken would to some mean having everything they owned taken. Surely Jesus would tell them that in THIS case it is okay to fight back and claim what is rightfully theirs; but no, he once again asks them/us to fight evil with good. Imagine how that court battle would go if you followed this principle...

Judge: "This is the case of Joe, the plaintiff, versus Fred, the defendant. Joe is claiming that Fred has stolen the only jacket he had to keep him warm."

Judge: "Fred, how do you plead!"

Fred: "Not guilty your honor!"

Judge: "Joe, what proof do you have that this fine jacket that Fred is wearing belongs to you?"

Joe: "Well sir, I am not wearing a jacket for one. Secondly, did you notice how the sleeves don't quite fit Fred's arms?"

Fred: "That proves nothing! I have simply grown since I first purchased this jacket"

Judge: "Order in the court. Fred, do not speak out of turn!"

Fred: "Sorry your honor."

Judge: "Proceed with your testimony Joe."

Joe: "My final offer of proof sir, is this...I can prove the jacket is mine because it has my name sown into the lining."

Fred: "What! That can't be possible...[stuttering]..this is my jacket!" I swear it belongs to me!"

Judge: "Fred, please remove the jacket and bring it to me."

Fred: "But your honor, this is my jacket. I don't want to take it off."

Judge: "Fred, remove the jacket and bring it to me now or risk being in contempt of court!"

Fred: "Okay, here you go..."

Judge: "I see here that Joe is right, his initials are sewn into the lining of this jacket. I will now render my verdict and penalty. Joe, I find that this jacket is yours and that Fred should not only give it back to you but should pay you $500 dollars for pain and suffering as well as spend 2 nights in jail for theft."

Fred: [desperately] "Your honor, please no! I can't go to jail! I have children. Have mercy!"

Judge: "You are guilty of theft, this is what you deserve."

Joe: "Sir, if I may say something please..."

Judge: "Go ahead."

Joe: "I wish to drop all charges against Fred."

Judge: [confounded] "Whuut?"

Joe: "I would also like to let him have the coat and I would like to take him to a tailor so that it can be fitted for him more comfortably. I don't want him to go to jail...I know that he has children to take care of sir. I would also like to give him $500 dollars to help him to care for his family."

Fred: [crying] "How can this be...I stole from you...I don't deserve this kindness."

Joe: [with tears in his own eyes] "The One who allowed me to have that coat has asked me to always be willing to give mercy and kindness to everyone, ESPECIALLY those that do bad to me. I would like to tell you more about the One who gave me that coat and who taught me mercy...would you like to hear more?"

Fred: "Yes, I sure would! Thank you Joe, I will never forget this."

Judge: "Case dismissed!"

Again, I ask, what would the outcome have been if we did it our way instead of God's way?

Prayer:

Lord, when I see Your Grace and mercy and love I am overwhelmed by it. It is so amazing! Now I ask for a power greater than myself to give me the ability to have that kind of grace and mercy for those that do wrong to me. Change my heart Lord as only you can....

Lord, I ask for your forgiveness and I accept it based on Your promise to forgive. Thank you for showing me the mercy that I do not deserve. Thank you for supplying me with a "coat" and everything else that I have. You're an awesome God!

Please be with all of the prayer requests on the prayer list. Keep my family safe and bring them all closer to You. Thank you for your sacrifice. Amen.

Turn the other cheek | Matthew 5:39

**Please be sure to read all around this passage so that you are getting it in context; and as always, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the understanding that He would have you see. Passage: Matthew 5:39

Thoughts:

This is another "you have heard it said" , "but I say to you" moment in Jesus ministry. He is once again bringing his audience back to the truth that was always there...it had just been lost under the covering of the traditions of the time and the traditions of men. Here is a little detail about the culture of the day...

The blow on the right cheek was the most grievous insult possible in the ancient world (apart from inflicting serious physical harm), and in many cultures was listed alongside the “eye for an eye” laws; both Jewish and Roman law permitted prosecution for this offense. A prophet might endure such ill treatment (1Ki_22:24; Isa_50:6). IVP Bible Background Commentary.

It could be that the cultural understanding  was that this applied only to prophets, but Jesus is speaking to everyone when he makes this statement. We must all have a spirit of non-resistance.

How can we possibly live in such a way that we don't resist when evil is done to us?

First, understand that this is not resisting evil within yourself, we should always do that, but resisting (physically, verbally, spiritually, politically) when evil is done to you. Jesus is bringing us back to an understanding of ...

  • Letting God be in control.
  • Showing love in the face of evil will defeat it.
  • Submission to God's will instead of your own will.

An example in the form of a story...

A family of Christians moves into a new home they just purchased in a small community. There is an old man who has been living by himself for a long time that has had many many disputes through the years with all previous owners of this home. His disputes have been over many things...property lines, noise levels, kids making a mess on "his" property, etc. He is the quintessential "cantankerous old fart".

As soon as the new family moves in he starts doing anything and everything he can to make their lives miserable. He dumps his garbage on their land. He cuss's loudly when they are in their yard having family time. He goes out of his way to make being his neighbor a living hell.

How should the Christian family react to this? What would you do?

They really have two options..

  1. They could do everything within their legal right to resist this man. They could call the police when he is harassing them. They could dump there garbage on his lawn or at least dump his garbage back on to his property. They could even contact a lawyer and attempt to fight this man in court to "force" him to comply.
  2. They could do it God's way...with love.

Now, lets suppose they do it the first way...what do you suppose will be the outcome? Will this man suddenly change and want to be a loving neighbor if they call the police? Will he feel bad for dumping his garbage on their property if they dump it back onto his? Or will his spirit of resistance toward them only increase?

Now, lets look at doing it God's way. Lets say that instead of dumping the garbage back onto his land, (what the cantankerous old man expects), they take the time to bag up the garbage and pay to have it hauled away and taken care of...no questions asked. Or what if, when he starts to cuss and make a scene while they are having family time in their yard they invite him over to join in the barbecue. What if they go to this old man every time he makes a problem and they offer him love, help, support, and caring. Would he expect this? NO! :)

This is how we, as Christians...as followers of Christ, can defeat evil with good. The above story is actually true...with a few facts changed because my memory is bad. This family ended up with a friendly and loving relationship with this cantankerous old man because they fought evil with good. He even ended up going to church with them and they quickly had a good friend instead of an enemy.

Think of other ways that this can be applied to your life. Do you have a spirit of resistance or a spirit of love, when evil is done to you?

Other applications:

Think of what the spirit of the world is. How many movies have you watched where the "hero" is out for vengeance?...someone has done him wrong and he is going to make them pay! Does God call us to vengeance?

What about forcing your spiritual or religious view through politics? Is this God's way?

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven,

Please give me a spirit of passiveness and love in the face of evil. Help me to have the strength to do it Your way Lord and not my way. Help me to forgive quickly and ask for forgiveness even faster. Your way defeats evil Lord, my way only bolsters it and makes it grow. Change my heart Lord...

Thank you for all that you do in my life. Thank you for all that you supply.

Please forgive me of my sins Lord and be with all of the prayer requests on my list. Lord, especially be with Ryan and his family as they deal with the loss of their father. Give them comfort, strength, and courage in a time of grief.

Thank you for your sacrifice and for being willing to die for even me. I love you Lord. Amen.

Eye for an Eye | Matthew 5:38-39

**Please be sure to read all around this passage so that you are getting it in context; and as always, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the understanding that He would have you see. Passage: Matthew 5:38-39

Thoughts:

This is another example of Jesus trying to correct a misunderstanding that had been made the law of the land. Here is some information from the IVP Bible Background Commentary...

The “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth” are part of the widespread ancient Near Eastern law of retaliation. In Israel and other cultures, this principle was enforced by a court and refers to legalized vengeance; personal vengeance was never accepted in the *law of Moses, except as a concession for a relative’s murder (Num_35:18-21). The *Old Testament did not permit personal vengeance; David, a great warrior, recognized this principle (1Sa_25:33; 1Sa_26:10-11).

It being common practice throughout the land, the idea of eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth had also worked its way into the nation of Israel as well. Jesus was not revealing some new and amazing truth but bringing them back to the original truth given to Moses. This makes me think of (Mat 5:17)...Jesus was not there to abolish the law but to bring us, all of us, then and now, back to the unerring perfect truth that God has given. The devil has a way of destroying the plain simple truths that God gives his people...one reason is that we like to add to it or subtract from it. Ask yourself, do I understand something that God has said His way...or mine?

If it was true that you should really only avenge or kill in matters of murder, Jesus is trying to bring the people back to a sense of  nonresistance, a sense of unselfishness motivated by love for your fellow man. He goes on to explain this further in the next few verses.

I am breaking this whole thought (passage) into 3 or 4 blog entries so that I can discuss each section in detail; but, the whole passage is about one thing. Being unselfish and loving your neighbor.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to be unselfish in all matters and dealing with my friends, neighbors, and even my enemies. Help me to always show you love first!

Please be with all of the prayer requests on the prayer list, especially two of them. Ryan's father is still struggling to come out of a coma Lord. I ask for a special healing to take place. May you be glorified! Second, please be with Melissa's mother who is on a ventilator and is also struggling. Lord, please heal her in a special way so that you may be glorified.

Thank you for all that you supply in my life. Lord, forgive my sins and make in my a new heart. I want so much to be less selfish and more like you. Amen.

Remarriage equals adultery | Matthew 5:31-37

**Please be sure to read all around this passage so that you are getting it in context; and as always, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the understanding that He would have you see. Passage: Matthew 5:31-32

Thoughts:

Being a divorced man myself I paid special attention to this passage. I know personally how devastating divorce can be. How damaging it can be to our children's lives, our personal lives, and even affecting our characters and how we interact with other people in the future.

Let's first take some time to get a sense of what Jesus may have been dealing with in His time...

Under Jewish law, “adultery” referred only to the wife’s misbehavior, not the husband’s. Matthew does not agree with this view (Mat_5:28); but because his readers must obey the law of their communities, he deals only with the issue of the wife.
Some Pharisaic *rabbis allowed divorce for almost anything (just as Roman law did); others allowed it only if the wife were unfaithful. Yet the stricter rabbis did not view more lenient divorces as invalid. Jesus thus goes beyond the stricter position: not only does he allow divorce only if one’s wife is unfaithful, but he regards divorce for any other reason as invalid, thus making remarriage in those cases adulterous. This seems, however, to be *hyperbole (as in Mat_5:29-30), a graphic way of forbidding divorce except when the other partner has already irreparably broken the marriage covenant.
If Jesus’ interpretation of the law was stricter than what the law said at face value, no one would have thought that he was therefore contradicting the law; “building a fence” around the law was a standard Jewish practice that involved making certain that the law’s intent was not broken. IVP Bible Background Commentary
Once again, Jesus is going beyond the "letter of the law" and digging into the "heart" of the matter. We must understand the principle of the law that God is putting forth to us, for our benefit, and apply it to our lives. Look at Matthew 5:33-37...here we are given the sense that we should NEVER ever make a vow that we do not intend to keep. Jesus is asking us to have integrity..."let your Yes be yes and your no be no". This would also apply to a marriage vow.
Here is the problem of the day that Jesus was dealing with...
People swore by all sorts of things other than God to testify that their word was true. They reasoned that if they broke their oath based on any of these lesser things, at least they were not bringing God’s name into disrepute. It eventually became necessary for *rabbis to decide which oaths were completely binding. Jesus says that everything by which one could swear is ultimately God’s, and demands that people simply be as good as their word. Jesus argues the point in part from Scripture; Isa_66:1 declared that heaven is God’s throne and earth is his footstool. IVP Bible Background Commentary
Today we are too quick to divorce. We don't even know why we have this problem as a society. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I think, in part, it is because we have selfishly made the vows in the first place. The vows should not be to another human first (your husband or wife) but to GOD first. This is what we have lost sight of. We no longer consider GOD a part of the "deal". What if the wedding vows were not to another person but to GOD and GOD alone. How much more important would that be?
Note the change in the vows as we go from Traditional to Civil type vows...
Traditional Wedding Vows 1:
I, (name), take you, (name), to be my [opt: lawfully wedded] (husband/wife), my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward. In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.
Traditional Wedding Vows 2 (traditional civil ceremony vows):
(Name), I take you to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife). Before these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you with all your faults and your strengths as I offer myself to you with my faults and strengths. I will help you when you need help, and I will turn to you when I need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.
Traditional Wedding Vows 3:
I, (name), take you, (name), to be my beloved (wife/husband), to have and to hold you, to honor you, to treasure you, to be at your side in sorrow and in joy, in the good times, and in the bad, and to love and cherish you always. I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life.
God is taken out as the different types of vows progress. If you are only making the promise to yourself or to another person then that promise has a certain weakness; human weakness. But if you are making the vows to God who is greater than you and who gives you life, love, and forgiveness....well, what a greater promise that is. You are now working with God who can make all things possible.
What if the vows were something more like this...
I, husband, take you, wife, to be my lawfully wedded wife. I vow to God, our family and friends, and to  you to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. I promise to always put God first and by doing so be a good husband to you unconditionally. I will uphold this covenant with God by loving you unconditionally, by supporting you in your goals, by honoring  you and respecting you, by laughing with you and crying with you, and by cherishing you for as long as we both shall live.
Now we have made a promise to God. And as Jesus said..."let your Yes be Yes and your No be No".

Lust Equals Adultery | Matthew 5:27-30

**Please be sure to read all around this passage so that you are getting it in context; and as always, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the understanding that He would have you see. Passage: Matthew 5:27-30

Thoughts:

On this one I must speak from the perspective of a man. It is almost impossible to avoid finding something attracting your eye to the female form on any given day. Television, newspapers, internet, billboards and sometimes women just walking down the street are advertising sexuality. So, as good Christian men who want to follow the teachings of Jesus, why are we not all blind and missing our eyes? :)

We must consider the true principle here and not get stuck on the details. Jesus is making a strong statement to get us to consider not only what is at stake (our eternal salvation) but also what was really meant by the law. First, He gives us the law. Second he expounds on the true depth of the meaning of the law. Then he gives us the over-arching principle of the law, look at verse 5:29...

Mat 5:29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

It is as if He is asking us to consider the consequences of what it would mean to go through with the action (lusting) before we allow ourselves to lust (dwell on the thoughts). This is my understanding of the principle of this passage. Jesus understands that we will be faced with the lust problem. We cannot become hermits or truly pluck out our eyes to avoid the possibility of ever lusting. However we can, when faced with the viewing of something that causes lust, consider the consequences of the sin...

  • The loss of our eternal souls
  • The degradation of a female
  • The loss of respect for ourselves
  • The understanding of the damage & death caused by the sex trade
  • The state of our hearts when we allow our minds to dwell on lustful thoughts & the damage it does to our characters
...and then allow that to lead our thoughts in the upward direction, toward God and our eternal life with Him. Check the state of your heart is what Jesus is saying and if it is in the wrong place, do whatever it takes to get it in the right place.
The IVP Bible Background Commentary has this to say about this passage...
Other Jewish teachers also looked down on lust; some even went as far as Jesus in regarding it as adultery. The issue is thus not the doctrine of Jesus’ hearers but their heart. The Greek word here is the same as in the opening line of the tenth commandment in the *Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament): “You shall not desire your neighbor’s wife” (Exo_20:17). The tenth commandment, against coveting, forces Jesus’ hearers to internalize Moses’ other commandments.
Understanding the principle of the law and letting it affect your heart  is actually so much more difficult than just keeping the letter of the law. Jesus calls us to do both!

Remember this verse...

Mat 5:20  "But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

Know your heart and ask for it to be changed, it is the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Prayer:

Dear Father & Teacher

Thank you for being willing not only to send your only Son to die for us and to cover our sins, but also for being willing to teach us Your ways and bring us back into true understanding of the reasons for your law. Help us/me to turn from lust and to turn to you instead. Help us/me to love you more than anything this old dying world has to offer.

Please be with all of the prayer requests listed on the prayer list page. Help each one in Your way. Heal the sick and guide the lost. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help someone today. Please be with them and help them to find Your love in their lives.

Thank you for all that you provide in my life Lord. You are the Great Provider and I truly appreciate everything you give to me. Please keep my family safe and be with my children. Keep us all protected under your wings and away from the Devils wrath.

Thank you Lord for being willing to use me...forgive me of my sins and make in me a new heart so that I can be a light to others.

I love You Lord and I want to come home soon! Amen.