Retaliation Facts for 9-13 Year Olds

(Matthew 5:38-42)

Categories: Sermon on the Mount

  • After being filled up by the beatitudes, the disciples are given “commands.”
  • One command has to do with retaliation. It differs from the others in that it involves personal matters.
  • These pronouns are all singular.
  • Jesus starts, “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’”
  • In the Old Testament, the law “an eye for an eye” was a tremendous advance. It said that the punishment must fit the crime.
  • It set Israel apart from many of her neighbors by putting an end to excessive retaliation.
  • But I tell you, “do not resist an evil person.”
  • The word “resist” in Greek is comprised of two other words. Literally, they mean, “against and stand.”
  • It typically refers to going to court, standing against someone in court.
  • So “resist not” came to mean, “Don’t hold court. Don’t mete out justice. Don’t get even.”
  • The way the word “evil” is written, it could mean evil, the evil one, or the evil person. They all work.
  • What is really interesting about this is that that evil has already been identified, so justice will be meted out—just not by us.

Then, he gives four very interesting examples.

  • Number 1 is: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

    • Right handed people will usually slap across the left cheek.
    • This specifically says “right cheek.” So to slap someone on the right cheek, means the slapper has given you a back-handed slap, which is an insult.
    • Jesus is saying, “Don’t haul this person into court, don’t get even.” Don’t take offense and make things worse. It takes a great deal of power to use such restraint.
  • Number 2 is: “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

    • In olden days, people usually wore only two garments—a tunic and a cloak.
    • Jesus is recognizing that many people owned only two things in the entire world, literally, the clothes on their backs.
    • This is a statement about possessions. We are to be as defenseless about our possessions as we are about our face. We are not to make things more important than people.
  • Number 3 is: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”

    • Laws said that any Roman soldier had the right to make any subject carry his baggage for a mile at any time.
    • The Jews particularly hated it.
    • Jesus is saying, “Give the first mile to Caesar, and the second one to God.”
    • Going the extra mile is going beyond fairness to preserve human relations.
  • Number 4 is: “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

    • Now this one about borrowing makes people particularly nervous.
    • There is, of course, a big difference between borrowing money for a video game or borrowing money for groceries.
    • We listen to the Spirit, which enables us to understand what is being asked and if it’s a good thing.
  • The unifying theme among all of these examples is that they have been very one-on-one. The “you” is always singular.
  • We’re not being asked to stand by while others get hurt. These commands have to do with us.
  • And more importantly, they move us right back into those first beatitudes and God’s promises.
  • Living with the beatitudes and filling up with God’s blessings help us deal with any kind of humiliation that might happen to us.