"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"
Responding To Evil (Mt 5:38-42)
1. When someone treats you wrong, how do you respond?
a. Do you react in kind, treating evil with evil?
b. Do you just stand there and take whatever abuse is given?
— What is the proper way to respond to evil?
2. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus taught concerning the
righteousness of the kingdom…
a. He did so by contrasting it with the righteousness of the scribes
1) Noting how the Law had often been interpreted and applied
2) Declaring what He expected of His disciples
b. We have seen Jesus contrast this righteousness in such matters
1) Murder and anger – Mt 5:21-26
2) Adultery – Mt 5:27-30
3) Divorce – Mt 5:31-32
4) Swearing Oaths – Mt 5:33-37
[In this lesson, we shall look at what Jesus taught concerning
"vengeance" (Mt 5:38-42) as we discuss "Responding To Evil". First,
I. THE LAW OF MOSES AND THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION
C. WHAT THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES HAD DONE…
1. Interpreted these statements so as to justify personal
2. Applied them by frequently taking matters of revenge into
their own hands
— Just as many people do today!
D. THE LAW REPEATEDLY FORBID "PERSONAL" VENGEANCE…
1. Consider Lev 19:18; Pro 20:22; Pro 24:29
2. In both Old Testament and New Testaments, the matter of
vengeance was to be left up to God and His duly appointed
agent: civil government! – cf. Rom 12:19; Rom 13:1-4
[There really is no difference between the Law and what we find in the
New Testament in this regard: Personal vengeance has no place in the
lives of those who are the children of God!
Now let’s examine more closely…]
II. THE PROPER RESPONSE TO EVIL
A. JESUS PROCLAIMED TWO PRINCIPLES…
1. Do not resist an evil person (Mt 5:39a)
a. Not only should you not take vengeance into your own
b. But don’t even oppose (resist) the evil person when the
evil is being done!
2. Respond to evil by doing good! (Mt 5:39b-42)
a. Jesus illustrates this principle with several examples…
1) Responding to physical abuse (Mt 5:39b)
a) "Turn the other cheek"
b) This may refer to offering the other cheek as an
expression of love
2) Responding to a civil suit, by giving more than what the
person is suing! (Mt 5:40)
3) Responding to government oppression, by offering to do
more than what is being demanded of you! (Mt 5:41)
4) Responding to those asking for help, by giving them what
they ask! (Mt 5:42)
b. In each case, the principle is the same
1) We are not to resist the person…
a) Who would mistreat us
b) Who would try to deprive us of our possessions
2) Instead, respond in a positive manner…
a) Demonstrate love towards them
b) Do so by freely giving them more than they were
hoping to gain by force, oppression, or manipulation!
B. IS THIS TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY?
1. Why not?
a. We have several O.T. examples…
1) Joseph, in forgiving his brothers – Gen 45:4-15
2) David, in sparing the life of Saul – 1 Sam 24:8-15
3) Elisha, in feeding the army of the Arameans – 2 Kings 6:8-23
b. We also have several N.T. examples…
1) Jesus, our prime example – 1 Pe 2:20-23
2) Stephen, when he was being stoned – Ac 7:59-60
3) The Hebrew Christians, who "joyfully accepted" the
plundering of their goods – Heb 10:32-34
c. We have the clear teaching of Paul in Ro 12:19-21 …
a. We are not to avenge ourselves
b. We must seek to overcome evil with good
2. If not, then how do we apply these words of Jesus?
a. What does Jesus mean?
b. Give some examples of how to apply these teachings… ???
C. ARE WE TO APPLY IT "UNCONDITIONALLY"?
1. I.e., must we decide who is "worthy" to receive this kind of
a. Jesus does not give us any indication that we are to use
b. Paul does give some qualifying instructions
(e.g., 2 Th 3:10 )…
1) But it applies to those who are Christians
2) And we have a responsibility to "judge" those in the
church, leaving those outside to God – 1 Co 5:9-13
2. I do find striking the attitude of Christians in the second
a. "Do good, and give liberally to all who are in need from
the wages God gives you. Do not hesitate about to whom you
should not give. Give to all. For God wishes gifts to be
made to all out of His bounties." (Hermas, 135 A.D.)
b. "And he said to love not only our neighbors but also our
enemies, and to be givers and sharers not only with the
good but also to be liberal givers towards those who take
away our possessions." (Irenaeus, 185 A.D.)
c. "Do not judge those who is worthy and who is unworthy, for
it is possible for you to be mistaken in your opinion. In
the uncertainty of ignorance it is better to do good to the
unworthy for the sake of the worthy, than by guarding
against those who are less good not to encounter the good.
For by sparing and trying to test those who are
well-deserving or not, it is possible for you to neglect
some who are loved by God, the penalty for which is the
eternal punishment of fire. But by helping all those in
need in turn you must assuredly find some who are able to
save you before God." (Clement of Alexandria, 190 A.D.)
— These statements were written at a time when Christians
were constantly mistreated, abused, and manipulated by
3. The teachings of Jesus in this passage are admittedly
a. It is opposed to what we might call "human nature"
b. But we are called upon to be "partakers of the divine
nature" (2 Pe 1:4); in other words, to be more like God
4. As we will see in the next lesson, it is in order to be truly
"sons of your Father in heaven" that Jesus teaches a standard
of righteousness that far exceeds…
a. That of the scribes and Pharisees
b. That of most people today!
5. At the very least, let us expend as much energy…
a. In seeing how we can apply this passage to lives…
b. …as many do trying to explain how it doesn’t really mean
what it appears to say!
1. Summarizing the teaching of Jesus concerning "Responding To Evil"…
a. We are not to resist evil
b. We are to respond by doing good in turn
2. We may never face the exact situations Jesus used to illustrate His
a. But the principles can be applied to so many things we do face
b. E.g., how people treat us at work, in our communities, in our own
families, in the church
Whenever mistreated, take the challenge to see how you might overcome
evil with good. Then your "righteousness" will exceed that of the
scribes and Pharisees!