The Gospel of Matthew, Part 11
The Gospel of Matthew
5:33 – 42: The Fourth and Fifth Examples of the New Spirit
Oaths and Revenge
Opening thoughts and basis for discussion
We must remember the new standard Christ sets in motion for us. Christ’s teaching is that thoughts are just as important as deeds. He is intensely concerned not solely with a person’s deeds as is the world’s view, but more so with a person’s thoughts.
A Word is A Pledge
The Jewish teachers at the time of Christ insisted on the truth, which had been guaranteed by an oath. There are two unsatisfactory things about taking oaths.
- Frivolous Swearing – Taking an oath where no oath was necessary or proper.
- Evasive Swearing – Oaths can be divided into two classes: those which were absolutely binding and those which were not.
Oaths are not necessary, according to Christ. “Sacred names should be kept for sacred things.” We cannot go through our lives expecting that God is not everywhere. On the contrary “He is everywhere present and fills all things.” We will regard all promises as sacred, if we remember that all promises are made in the presence of God.
The End of Resentment and of Retaliation
In Matt 5:38-42, Christ gives us the essence of the Christian ethic. That ethic is that retaliation, however controlled and restricted, has no place in the Christian life.
For the Christians, Jesus abolishes the old law of vengeance and introduces the new spirit of non-resentment and of non-retaliation.
Christ gives three examples of the Christian spirit in operation:
- “if anyone strokes us on the right cheek, turn the other to him also” (v39). Do not resent and do not retaliate.
- “and if anyone wishes to obtain judgment against you for your tunic, give him your cloak also” (v40). Do not think of legal rights but of duties, nor of privileges but of responsibilities.
- “and if anyone impresses you into the public service to go a mile, go with him two miles” (v41). Don’t think of your liberty as doing whatever you like, but think of your liberty as a privilege to serve others.
How are we then to live up to the standards of a true Christian?