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Eye for Eye

Matthew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard that our fathers were told,‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’39 But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong. On the contrary, if someone hits you on the right cheek, let him hit you on the left cheek too!40 If someone wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well!41 And if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two!42 When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something from you, lend it to him.

Eye for eye... we have heard this phrase often. I often questioned it in my head when I was growing up. I never understood what it really meant. It is from Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:2. Jesus was once again quoting from Torah. Once again, He was bringing clarity to the Words given years before.

A couple years ago a friend was trying to tell me that Jesus changed the teaching of the "Old Testament" and this was one Scripture she used. Her thought was that Jesus said not to do an eye for eye because Jesus would not want someone to gouge out someone else's eye. Obviously I knew this to be true as well, so I knew there was something more to the meaning of "eye for eye." I decided to do some research and this is what I found.

The phrase, "eye for eye" was really about payment. If someone hurt your eye, you were allowed to receive payment for the work lost, and the actually loss of the eye. If someone hurt your hand, same thing. When Jesus said not to stand up to someone doing you wrong, He essentially was telling you - you don't need to force them for payment. Jesus was teaching the people to show grace in a situation where payment could have been demanded.

Jesus was not telling people to change what was taught. He was giving them the opportunity to go a step further than just demanding payment. He was teaching them to extend mercy, even to those who maybe didn't deserve it. He was teaching them to "go the extra mile" and love those who are hard to love.

Why would Jesus want to teach a concept like that? Maybe because we are all in the same situation. God extended mercy to the Israelites over and over, when they did not deserve it, so this is not a "New Testament" concept. He continues to extend His grace and mercy to all who choose to follow Him. When we do wrong, He corrects us, but still loves us and still blesses us. We are often difficult to love, and He loves us anyway.

Take time to reflect on what this means for us today... What actions do we need to take to show His love and mercy to those around us?

Love and blessings,


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