Reading Assignment: Matthew 5:38-42

Did you understand what you read?

  1. The quotation that Jesus gives can be found in the Old Testament. Where can it be found?
  2. Look at the context of the verses that you found. What is the meaning of the phrase? Who was supposed to use it? When was it supposed to be used?
  3. When someone has wrongly demanded something from us, why should we give him more than he demanded?


            Jesus begins with the quotation, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." This phrase can be found in three places in the Old Testament. In all three cases, the phrase was a guide to a judge for determining the punishment of a convicted wrongdoer.

            Case 1:           (Exodus 21:22-25) If two men are fighting and accidentally harm a pregnant woman so that her child is born prematurely, the punishment is to be equal to the amount of permanent damage done to the child or the mother. If no permanent harm resulted, then a fine would be imposed.

            Case 2:           (Deuteronomy 19:16-21) A person making a false accusation is to receive whatever punishment the accused would have received had the judge believed the accuser. No pity was to be given because of the seriousness of the offense.

            Case 3:           (Leviticus 24:17-22) A man guilty of injuring another would receive the same injury he caused as punishment.

None of these cases allow for a person to retaliate against someone else. Only a judge was to determine the guilt of the accused. Once the guilt was established, these laws determined the punishment for these particular crimes. God never intended these laws to be used as an excuse to take the law into your own hands (Leviticus 19:18, Proverbs 20:22, Proverbs 24:29).

            Instead of trying to get back at someone who does you wrong, Jesus taught we should go so far as to return good for the evil done. Returning good for evil is a concept taught in both the Old Law (Exodus 23:4-5, Proverbs 25:21-22) and the New Law (Romans 12:17-21, I Thessalonians 5:15).

            We should not overstep our authority and bring slanderous accusations against others. Both II Peter 2:11 and Jude 9 state that even angels will not slander the wicked. We can condemn evil actions that others commit, but we must remember that these people must give an account of their lives to God and not to us. God is the judge. We do not determine who is going to heaven or hell.


  1. A bum approaches you on the street and asks for money. What should you do?
  2. One of your children was wrongly accused by a teacher at school. As punishment, your child was assigned a five page report. You know the punishment is unjust. What should you advise your child to do?