A Kingdom Devoid of Self-Interest

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March 17th, 2019

Introduction: The Sermon on the Mount is the most quoted section of Scripture; the magnum opus of Jesus’ teaching, revealing and defining what Jesus’ Kingdom is like. The goal is not for us to see his words as principles. His kingdom is one that is upside down when compared to the kingdoms of this earth. Ultimately, hearers more than anything must see Jesus as the fulfillment of his words.

Twisting Words (v38-39a)

You heard that is was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.

  • Jesus is speaking to a Jewish audience who would have been familiar with his first reference (i.e. Ex 21:24, Lev 24:20).

  • Moses wrote this principle with the intent of protecting those who suffered physical violence.

  • If an eye or tooth was damaged by another individual, equal legal punishment should be enforced.

  • It meant equal justice without respect of persons, in order to protect people from severe violence.

  • This precept took punishment out of the arena of private vengeance and put it in the public; the judicial realm.

  • In Jewish culture especially, this idea had become distorted to accommodate self-interest and protection to mean individuals could personally and privately inflict physical harm on another if they themselves had been harmed.

  • But this was never the spirit of the law (Prov 24:29 “Do not say I will do to him as he has done to me.”).

  • Jesus’ second statement clarifies his first.

  • Jesus is pleading with the individual to deny self-interest and the “rights” we feel we are owed, especially when physically harmed.

  • We tend to become experts at taking what Jesus says and turning it around to serve ourselves, instead of coming to grips that Jesus’ words are chiefly about him.  

Turning Cheeks (v39b-41)

But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

  • Jesus then moves on to give three hypothetical examples to support and clarify his words.

  1. The first has a direct tie to his previous statements.

  • Jesus seemingly isn’t requiring a further incurrence of violence inflicted upon us.

    • The example given describes a lesser sort; the right cheek is being smacked with an open hand, the back of the dominant right hand.

    • Additionally, Jesus himself didn’t turn the other cheek when he was illegally struck by an officer at his trial cf Jn 18:22-23.

  • Jesus seems to be saying it would be better to take another smack to the face than to act out in any sort of retaliation.

  1. The second example has to do with an entirely different scenario.

  • An impoverished follower of Jesus is being oppressed where their final remaining belongings are at risk of being lost.

  • This is taking place in a court of law, making the process leading up to this one that is legal.

  • The one suing has achieved legal means by which they can now literally take the last shirt off this person’s back.

  • Everything else would have been sued for before a person’s used article of clothing.

  • Not only should the oppressed not retaliate, but rather he should give his most expensive article of clothing.

  1. The third example has to do with a compulsory, meaning obligatory act of public service.

  • The precedent was one where a government authority would solicit the help of a civilian unprompted and unpaid.

  • The requirement usually had to do with running an errand that would be about a mile in length.

  • Jesus presents a situation where the person asked is to do twice as much as what is asked.

  • It comes down to loving your neighbor as yourself (the second greatest commandment).

  • Loving your neighbor even if he is an enemy back handing your face; even if you lose the clothes on your body; and even if you have to do something you have no interest in.

Treasuring Nothing (v42)

Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

  • Jesus changes up his pattern of hypotheticals to throw out two commands in verse 42: “Give” and “Do not refuse.

  • The given is that we will be asked because people have needs all around us.

  • Jesus is asking us to be ready to meet them abundantly (not perfectly).

  • If we treasure nothing (meaning, we treasure Christ above all), and remember everything is his, we don’t “need” anything, and we can hold on to loosely the things we have for the sake of his glory and the good of others.

  • The goal here is neighbor love which Jesus represented and fulfilled perfectly.