Matthew 5: 38 – 42

I’m not even going to bother commenting on the worthiness of this as advice. If there’s any Christians out there who’ve followed this religiously, then let me know how it turned out. I will however reiterate what I wrote last time. Since these verses follow on from Oaths and there’s absolutely no link between them, I reckon Jesus took a stroll up Mount Non-Sequitur to deliver what would be the most boring, rambling and useless TED Talk ever:

Eye for Eye

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

4 thoughts on “Matthew 5: 38 – 42

  1. Marco

    Hi Winston. I’m not a Christian but I have followed this advice (at least as far as I could understand it) pretty much from the time in early childhood when my fanatically catholic grandmother read some of the bible to me the short two weeks I spent with her. This goes for people who play a practical joke on me, to those who would bully me, to those who have a grudge against me or my family as neighbours. It extends to my feelings that we should not respond with violence necessarily as a reaction to terrorism. It also goes the same in business. It generally is personal in nature – I do not expect others to do like that but I live in hope that other people see the logic in it. Over the years there are mixed results. Certainly with neighbours and friends I am happy with the results. In business, I am pretty sure that it has been a negative to be a nice guy with people happy for you to lose business or go out of business, but overall I’m quite satisfied.

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  2. winstoninabox Post author

    ” I’m not a Christian but I have followed this advice (at least as far as I could understand it)… I am pretty sure that it has been a negative to be a nice guy with people happy for you to lose business or go out of business…”

    In understanding the advice it’s important to recognize that there is more here than “turn the other cheek” and “being a nice guy”. And even turning the other cheek is of limited use when dealing with an evil person, for it’s too late to turn the other cheek if you’re already dead.

    The other verses are variations of turn the other cheek, but the imperative is in many instances ridiculous. It’s one thing to turn offer no resistance to someone who would sue you for your coat, but it’s quite another to hand them your cloak too. And the advice to give to someone who asks and don’t turn away borrowers is nonsense with out giving some further criteria for who to help and who not to help. What, turn away no one?

    BTW, I’m not being critical of the advice being bad advice in the sense of “winning” as if this is some kind of game theory. I’m actually at a loss as to why 4 (or 5 depending on how you count them) blanket advices are given with no explanation on when and how to apply them, in an effort to correct the old way of ‘an eye for an eye’.

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  3. Marco

    I can’t believe you are disrespecting this piece of moral advice. This concept of “turning the other cheek” is ten times more powerful than “do unto others” the amazing effects it can have is to stop a brooding cycle of “eye for an eye” right in its tracks. The point being that someone who is being violent or in those other situations generally feels empowered by the thought that they are entitled due to the things done to them. The perpetrator is then faced with their own self guilt that they found no resistance. Together with “love your enemy” these general concepts taken at face value *with even the specific examples stated* even after Millenia achieve things more effectively than the rule of law, even where the rule of law has broken down. Of course, one follower of this principle on their own would not change society, but this is the gospel at work, and I would happily go to church on occasions when this passage was the theme. In real situations it has made a real positive difference to me.
    The only caveat is that business success is not aided by a strict moral compass in this respect, but I’ve broken many seemingly intractable grudges using these techniques.

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  4. winstoninabox Post author

    “I can’t believe you are disrespecting this piece of moral advice.”

    And I can’t believe you’d say I’m disrespecting the advice. I began the post by saying that I wasn’t going to comment on the worthiness of it, and then in my comment I again said that I’m not being critical of the advice being bad advice.

    But as you’d like to talk about it, then turning the other cheek is not some magic cure-all for conflict resolution; sometimes it’s going to work, other times it’s going to get the cheek-turner punched in the face. It’s great it’s worked for you, but there are other strategies that can be just effective or more so depending on the situation, and if more than 3 people commented on this blog then we might get other stories where utilizing it didn’t help the situation. My problem with the verses is that it is presented as a blanket response with no advice on when it is applicable and when it is not.

    Also, I’m not sure how non-resistance is ‘moral advice’. The assumption seems to be that Jesus’s rescinding of an eye for an eye is somehow more moral. Yet an eye for an eye was good enough for generations before that, and if it was so important why wait for so long to change it, and then with a messenger who is going to take about 30 years after being born to impart the new rule.

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