Pay it forward

I bet you are not like me. There is probably never a time in your life when you hope that special someone in your life would just get what they have coming. I mean, what the Lord wants to give them, of course. If we are not careful we will get sucked into wanting to help pay people back for things that were said or done to us and our family and friends. To this, Jesus says, resist retaliation. (5:38-42) Our Lord uses the Pharisee catchphrase in Matthew 5:38~You have heard that it was said, Eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth. (ESV) Mosaic Law speaks to retaliation, limiting it to no more than equal compensation. Exodus 21:23-25~But if there is a serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (NIV) However, many Jews had perverted God’s Law to be permission for vendettas and vengeance. This was never God’s intent. Leviticus 19:18~Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (NIV) 

Obviously, the issue was to be settled in a court, and the punishment was to fit the crime. The law gave judges a formula for dealing with crime in court, not in personal vendettas. Because the Jews had perverted God’s original intent, in response Jesus says in Matthew 5:39~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. (ESV) That doesn’t mean we let someone beat us to death. But it does means we turn the other cheek, which would not otherwise be hit. Why, who would do this? Righteous people would, they would do this out of their generous spirit towards those in legitimate need, that’s the key because they know everything they have comes from God.

Matthew 5:40~And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. (ESV) Now the tunic was a type of shirt worn as an undergarment while the cloak was an outer garment also used as a blanket or shawl. In Christ Jesus’s day, most people had only one. When a person had no money, the court often would require the judgment to be paid in clothing. If a fair legal judgment is made against us for a certain amount, Jesus says we should be willing to give even more to show regret for the wrong and to show there is no resentment against the one who sued. The principle Jesus is sharing is that we are not to be vengeful. 

This triggers the thought of Romans 12:21~Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV) Whether we are carrying luggage or people who are hurt and lashing out at us, Jesus says, give and do not let bitterness take root in your life. Why is this a good principle? It reminds us that God has given us all things and that we are to live cheerful and generous lives according to 2 Corinthians 9:7. Who might need a little cheerful gift today that spills out of our gratitude for all that God has given us. Why not pay forward the joy of the Lord and the blessing in your life by ministering to someone near, and in need.


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