Matthew 5:38 ESV
Matthew 5:39-42 ESV
Exodus 21:24-25 ESV
Leviticus 24:19-20 ESV
We’ve all probably heard the words, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. We’ve also probably seen it played out in many different ways.
I remember even in elementary school seeing it on the playground. I’ve always been a little grateful that I’m a girl and I’m a really small girl. Not only did I start school really early, I never grew very much in a year. I know a woman who is six feet tall and she talked about having really bad growing pains growing up. Honestly, I never had growing pains. Ever.
My great-grandmother was barely 5’ tall. My grandmother was 5’ tall. My Mother is 5’2” tall. I am 4’11” tall so I am in range of all the women in my family.
Why is that a good thing?
It’s good because I was too small for anyone to pick on or challenge.
That would have made the other person look REALLY bad.
In other words, I was so small I wasn’t ever a target. I see that as a good thing.
However, as I grew older I learned that even though people didn’t challenge me physically, there were people who challenge in other ways.
In Matthew 5:38 Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ “
So, not only has the phrase been repeated culturally, it’s part of scripture. Moses even spoke of it in Exodus 21:24-25, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
When Moses spoke it in Exodus 21 he was teaching Israel how they were expected to treat their slaves. Just before telling them they needed to honor an ‘eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ he gave a graphic example. Moses said if a pregnant women is hit and she looses the child and it does. grave harm they can impose a life for a life, an eye for an eye…
The intent was that an equal punishment shall be given for a cruel act.
Moses also covered the same subject in a different way in Leviticus 24:19-20 when he said, “If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.”
Through Moses, God wanted Israel to understand that there would be and should be consequences for their actions.
Even science has a reference to it. Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion stipulates for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.
It’s part of human nature.
I used to tell my sons if they hit someone they are opening the door to get hit.
That’s not because people are evil. I think it’s because people have an innate desire to protect themselves.
When Jesus came He really did turn the world upside down. He changed everything. In this case He added to what had been known.
In Matthew 5:39 Jesus said, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Jesus was trying to get the people to see that while it’s human nature to retaliate, we do not need to be defined by our humanity or our desire to get even. While turning the other cheek is not easy, it is do-able when we rely on God. Asking God to guide you and give you love for the other person is always the best course of action.
With every action He did, Jesus changed His reaction.
I’ve been told that changing our reaction from getting even to giving love changes us.
Step by step and inch by inch we become more like Christ.
It doesn’t happen instantly, but responding in love does change us.
We come full circle back to how people challenged in other ways. An eye for an eye isn’t always about a physical challenge.
Sometimes it’s a mental challenge or an intellectual challenge. When challenge comes, we decide how we will respond.
Asking God to give us love for the person who challenges us always changes us.
Love is the answer is not just a phrase. Loving someone we do not love requires God’s help. The first step is surrendering the situation to God and waiting for God to change us.
Spiritual Practice: Ask and Wait
Surrender to God and ask for LOVE. Wait in silence for God to speak.
In God, Deborah