An eye for an eye - This command is found in Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:21. In these places it was given as a rule to regulate the decisions of judges. They were to take eye for eye, and tooth for tooth, and to inflict burning for burning. As a judicial rule it is not unjust. Christ finds no fault with the rule as applied to magistrates, and does not take upon himself to repeal it. But instead of confining it to magistrates, the Jews had extended it to private conduct, and made it the rule by which to take revenge. They considered themselves justified by this rule to inflict the same injury on others that they had received. Our Saviour remonstrates against this. He declares that the law had no reference to private revenge, that it was given only to regulate the magistrate, and that their private conduct was to be governed by different principles.
The general principle which he laid down was, that we are not to resist evil; that is, as it is in the Greek, nor to set ourselves against an evil person who is injuring us. But even this general direction is not to be pressed too strictly. Christ did not intend to teach that we are to see our families murdered, or be murdered ourselves; rather than to make resistance. The law of nature, and all laws, human and divine, justify self-defense when life is in danger. It cannot surely be the intention to teach that a father should sit by coolly and see his family butchered by savages, and not be allowed to defend them. Neither natural nor revealed religion ever did, or ever can, inculcate this doctrine. Our Saviour immediately explains what he means by it. Had he intended to refer it to a case where life is in danger, he would most surely have mentioned it. Such a case was far more worthy of statement than those which he did mention.
A doctrine so unusual, so unlike all that the world had believed. and that the best people had acted on, deserved to be formally stated. Instead of doing this, however, he confines himself to smaller matters, to things of comparatively trivial interest, and says that in these we had better take wrong than to enter into strife and lawsuits. The first case is where we are smitten on the cheek. Rather than contend and fight, we should take it patiently, and turn the other cheek. This does not, however, prevent our remonstrating firmly yet mildly on the injustice of the thing, and insisting that justice should be done us, as is evident from the example of the Saviour himself. See John 18:23. The second evil mentioned is where a man is litigious and determined to take all the advantage the law can give him, following us with vexatious and expensive lawsuits. Our Saviour directs us, rather than to imitate him rather than to contend with a revengeful spirit in courts of justice to take a trifling injury, and yield to him. This is merely a question about property, and not about conscience and life.
Coat - The Jews wore two principal garments, an interior and an exterior. The interior, here called the “coat,” or the tunic, was made commonly of linen, and encircled the whole body, extending down to the knees. Sometimes beneath this garment, as in the case of the priests, there was another garment corresponding to pantaloons. The coat, or tunic, was extended to the neck. and had long or short sleeves. Over this was commonly worn an upper garment, here called “cloak,” or mantle. It was made commonly nearly square, of different sizes, 5 or 6 cubits long and as many broad, and was wrapped around the body, and was thrown off when labor was performed. If, said Christ, an adversary wished to obtain, at law, one of these garments, rather than contend with him let him have the other also. A reference to various articles of apparel occurs frequently in the New Testament, and it is desirable to have a correct view of the ancient mode of dress. in order to a proper understanding of the Bible. The Asiatic modes of dress are nearly the same from age to age, and hence it is not difficult to illustrate the passages where such a reference occurs. The ordinary dress consisted of the inner garment, the outer garment, the girdle (belt), and the sandals. In regard to the sandals, see the notes at Matthew 3:11.
In the girdle (belt) was the place of the pouch Matthew 10:9, and to it the sword and dirk were commonly attached. Compare 2 Samuel 20:8. In modern times the pistols are also fastened to the belt. It is the usual place for the handkerchief, smoking materials, inkhorn, and, in general, the implements of one‘s profession. The belt served to confine the loose-flowing robe or outer garment to the body. It held the garment when it was tucked up, as it was usually in walking or in labor. Hence, “to gird up the loins” became a significant figurative expression, denoting readiness for service, activity, labor, and watchfulness; and “to loosen the loins” denoted the giving way to repose and indolence, 2 Kings 4:29; Job 38:3; Isaiah 5:27; Luke 12:35; John 21:7.
Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile - The word translated “shall compel” is of Persian origin. Post-offices were then unknown. In order that the royal commands might be delivered with safety and despatch in different parts of the empire, Cyrus stationed horsemen at proper intervals on all the great public highways. One of those delivered the message to another, and intelligence was thus rapidly and safely communicated. These heralds were permitted to compel any person, or to press any horse, boat, ship, or other vehicle that they might need for the quick transmission of the king‘s commandments. It was to this custom that our Saviour refers. Rather, says he, than resist a public authority requiring your attendance and aid for a certain distance, go peaceably twice the distance.
A mile - A Roman mile was 1,000 paces.
Twain - Two.
And if any man will sue thee at the law - Every where our blessed Lord shows the utmost disapprobation of such litigations as tended to destroy brotherly kindness and charity. It is evident he would have his followers to suffer rather the loss of all their property than to have recourse to such modes of redress, at so great a risk. Having the mind averse from contentions, and preferring peace and concord to temporal advantages, is most solemnly recommended to all Christians. We are great gainers when we lose only our money, or other property, and risk not the loss of our souls, by losing the love of God and man.
Coat - Χιτωνα, upper garment. - Cloke, ἱματιον, under garment. What we call strait coat, and great coat. - See on Luke 6:29; (note).
Jesus bade His disciples, instead of resisting the demands of those in authority, to do even more than was required of them. And, so far as possible, they should discharge every obligation, even if it were beyond what the law of the land required. The law, as given through Moses, enjoined a very tender regard for the poor. When a poor man gave his garment as a pledge, or as security for a debt, the creditor was not permitted to enter the dwelling to obtain it; he must wait in the street for the pledge to be brought to him. And whatever the circumstances the pledge must be returned to its owner at nightfall. Deuteronomy 24:10-13. In the days of Christ these merciful provisions were little regarded; but Jesus taught His disciples to submit to the decision of the court, even though this should demand more than the law of Moses authorized. Though it should demand a part of their raiment, they were to yield. More than this, they were to give to the creditor his due, if necessary surrendering even more than the court gave him authority to seize. “If any man would go to law with thee,” He said, “and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” R.V. And if the couriers require you to go a mile with them, go two miles. MB 72.1
Jesus added, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” The same lesson had been taught through Moses: “Thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.” Deuteronomy 15:7, 8. This scripture makes plain the meaning of the Saviour's words. Christ does not teach us to give indiscriminately to all who ask for charity; but He says, “Thou shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need;” and this is to be a gift, rather than a loan; for we are to “lend, hoping for nothing again.”. MB 72.2Read in context »
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ has given a definition of true sanctification. He lived a life of holiness. He was an object lesson of what His followers are to be. We are to be crucified with Christ, buried with Him, and then quickened by His Spirit. Then we are filled with His life. UL 284.2Read in context »
The Lord God of Israel is hungry for fruit. He calls upon His workers to branch out more than they are doing. He desires them to make the world their field of labor rather than to work only for our churches. The apostle Paul went from place to place, preaching the truth to those in the darkness of error. He labored for a year and six months at Corinth, and proved the divine character of his mission by raising up a flourishing church, composed of Jews and Gentiles. Christ never confined His labors to one place. The towns and cities of Palestine resounded with the truths that fell from His lips. 7T 268.1Read in context »
I speak to the workers, young and old, who are handling our books, and especially to those who are canvassing for the book that is now doing its errand of mercy: Exemplify in the life the lessons given by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount. This will make a deeper impression and have a more lasting influence upon minds than will the sermons given from the pulpit. You may not be able to speak eloquently to those you desire to help; but if you speak modestly, hiding self in Christ, your words will be dictated by the Holy Spirit; and Christ, with whom you are co-operating, will impress the heart. 6T 472.1
Exercise that faith which works by love and sanctifies the soul. Let none now make the Lord ashamed of them because of their unbelief. Sloth and despondency accomplish nothing. Entanglements in secular business are sometimes permitted by God in order to stir the sluggish faculties to more earnest action that He may honor faith by the bestowal of rich blessings. This is a means of advancing His work. Looking unto Jesus, not only as our Example, but as the Author and Finisher of our faith, let us go forward, having confidence that He will supply strength for every duty. 6T 472.2
Much painstaking effort will be required of those who have the burden of this work; for right instruction must be given, that a sense of the importance of the work may be kept before the workers, and that all may cherish the spirit of self-denial and sacrifice exemplified in the life of our Redeemer. Christ made sacrifices at every step, sacrifices that none of His followers can ever make. In all the self-denial required of us in this work; amid all the unpleasant things that occur, we are to consider that we are yoked up with Christ, partakers of His spirit of kindness, forbearance, and self-abnegation. This spirit will open the way before us and give us success because Christ is our recommendation to the people. 6T 472.3Read in context »