Since I want follow Jesus I wonder how to deal with certain situations.   Jesus said that we must not refuse to give to anyone who ask us to give them something. (Matthew 5:39).  What if we are asked to give a bribe?  Also, many beggars ask for money as a way of life without really needing it.  Also, some exploit or take advantage of our generosity. If I give something to these people who ask unjustly, I commit an injustice. If I cannot refuse to say NO to anyone who asks me for something then Jesus wants me to give something to a Mafia organization extorting me for money.  In Matthew 5:42 Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek. But if a thief enter in my home and wants to rape my wife and kill my children would Jesus want me to do nothing to defend my family?   Thank you


In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is teaching principles for the Christian life.  These are principles we should apply in all of life’s situations, but they are principles, not legalistic rules that we must apply without thinking.  We cannot use one verse in the Bible to cancel out another verse in the Bible.  For example, in Romans 13:1-7 we are told to obey the governing authorities and, specifically, to pay our taxes.  It is illegal to pay a bribe to a government official.  So, if I try to “obey” Matthew 5:39 by paying a bribe to a government official, then I am breaking a commandment in Romans 13:1-7.  Besides, Matthew 5:39 is a principle, whereas Romans 13:1-7 is a commandment.  In general, a commandment takes precedence over a principle (although there might be an exception to this at times).

The principle of Matthew 5:39 is that we should not be stingy and we should not be legalistic.  We should not have the attitude that I will give you only exactly what I owe you and no more.  We should be faithful to this principle, but it does not mean literally that every single time any person asks us for any amount of money we should give that amount and even more.  This would mean that we would be impoverished and not even able to take care of our own family.  We would not be able to pay our bills, which would break another command which is that we should “leave no debt outstanding.” (Romans 13:8)  These examples prove that Matthew 5:39 is a principle, not a command.  We need to have a generous, not a stingy attitude toward people.  Given this principle, we need to apply it with wisdom and not be foolish with our money.  We need to use discernment in how we use our money, but this discernment should also be governed by being willing to go the extra mile when we can.

Jesus is not telling us that we need to be willing to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous and dishonest people.  This would take the passage and the teaching too far.  Wisdom should be applied when we put this passage into practice.  As for giving to a Mafia organization or a corrupt or illegal organization, this would violate other commands, so we should not apply the principle in Matthew in a way which breaks another command.  Jesus is assuming that we will apply this passage wisely and in a way which is consistent with other commands and principles.

The same thing applies to Jesus’ statement that we should be willing to turn the other cheek.  This is a great and amazing principle, but it needs to be applied with wisdom.  Jesus showed a great example of turning the other cheek.  He was willing to be abused for God’s sake, but he was not a masochist.  He was willing to take a beating to serve another person, but this does not mean that we should simply lay down and never defend ourselves in any situation.  It is not sinful to lock your car in dangerous neighborhoods.  In one case, Paul even challenged a hypocritical Jewish leader who broke the law when he slapped him in Acts 23:2.  Then, when he learned it was the high priest Annas, he humbly apologized.  Turning the other cheek is a concept which we need to apply to co-workers who abuse us.  We need to be willing to be abused at certain times, but there will be times when it is appropriate to defend ourselves against lies.  We need to use discernment in applying this passage, as Acts 23:2 demonstrates.  If someone were raping my wife, I would try to pull the man off of my wife, even if this meant that I would be struck or killed.  Coming to the aid of a defenseless woman is not a violation of the commandment to turn the other cheek, especially because this is defending another person, not ourselves.  You have a right to defend your home–to try to prevent someone from raping your wife, but I suggest that you should not kill such a person and you should be willing, eventually, to forgive such a person.  In general, turning the other cheek applies to when someone is abusing us, not another person.  And besides, there are “exceptions” when we should speak up for justice, even when we are abused, but this requires humility and discernment.

John Oakes

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