• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for Feb. 21 focuses on Matthew 5:33-42.
Do you remember your first car? If it was like mine, you loved it despite all its quirks and flaws. My first car was a 1963 Ford Thunderbird. When I bought that car, I thought I was somebody. It had a few dings and idiosyncrasies like a gas gauge that was a bit faulty. The least amount of gas that the gauge registered was when I had just a quarter of a tank of gas left. I had to figure the gas mileage to know exactly when it was empty.
Naturally, I could have just filled the gas tank whenever it reached a quarter of a tank, but who does that? I was prideful in my ability to calculate exactly when I needed to fill up the car with gas—until the day came when my calculations were off, and I ran out of gas.
I couldn’t trust my gas gauge—or my own math, for that matter. You’ve met people in your life you couldn’t trust. They lacked integrity. Jesus calls his disciples to a life following him with full integrity.
Display integrity with your words (Matthew 5:33-37).
Jesus used the Ten Commandments in his teachings about hatred and lust (Matthew 5:21, 27). He probably had the third commandment in mind here with the topic of oaths in these verses.
In the ancient world, oaths were sacred. Each party called on God as a witness of the oath and as its enforcer. No one ever wanted to treat God’s name lightly, so an oath with God’s name in it was especially binding. Woe to the person who broke such an oath.
To avoid any harsh punishment from God, Jews in Jesus’ day would swear by something removed from God such as heaven, earth, Jerusalem or even a person’s own right hand. Confusion arose concerning how serious specific oaths were, so Jewish teachers had to arbitrate disputes concerning these oaths.
Jesus set all such gimmicks in oath-making aside. He simply said to keep your word. Don’t use an oath to take advantage of another person. Do what you agreed to do, and don’t search for loopholes in order to get out of keeping an oath. Simply put, keep your word.
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It’s about integrity, the trait of consistently displaying moral character and honesty. For those in their 20s and 30s, integrity has eclipsed competence as the key quality for a leader. It’s not to say incompetence is OK, but integrity is more important today for many Millennials than actual job performance.
Just let it go when you are humiliated or insulted (Matthew 5:38-39).
The law of retaliation as described in the Old Testament as an eye for an eye was a marked improvement over the increasing amount of vengeance that ruled the ancient world. It was meant to be equal and fair, but it’s not the best way to live.
Jesus showed the better way. He taught forgiveness and grace. That’s a more difficult road to travel, and it’s a much better road for both the offender and the offended.
You probably remember the last time someone said a hurtful word to you. Words that hurt seem to have the ability to sear themselves into our psyches.
Jesus taught about hurtful words and insults in these verses. Of course, some may say Jesus taught pacifism, since the physical violence of being slapped on the face should not be returned in kind with a retaliatory slap; however, turning the other cheek can come across as egging the other person on to slap again.
The crux of the teaching is being slapped on the “right” cheek which is done with back of someone’s right hand. It’s an insult more than a physical injury. To such insults and injuries Jesus said do not retaliate. Learn to take wrongs given to you.
Go the extra mile for others, even those who want to take advantage of you (Matthew 5:40-42).
In the next two verses, Jesus continues the theme of taking wrongs from others. Here, the wrongs include lawsuits brought against believers and oppression from military force.
Naturally, Jesus isn’t teaching his followers to become doormats when people seek to take from them. He’s not saying to give away all of one’s clothing simply because people have asked for them. He’s not saying to abandon all your responsibilities simply because someone who has authority demands attention and work. Going the extra mile does not mean endangering one’s own life or the lives of one’s loved ones.
In verse 42, Jesus sums up this section of verses. Be generous. Be gracious. Be wise. To be generous is an attribute every Christian should exhibit. Whether it’s a large tip at the local restaurant or settling a lawsuit out of court that might could be won, be generous.
Be gracious, for Jesus has not only taught the value of grace, but has also extended grace to all. Grace is unmerited or undeserved favor. That’s the grace we need from God and the grace others need from us.
Be wise when giving to others. Sometimes helping someone is giving what they request. Sometimes helping is not giving what is requested but instead what is needed. The good intention of helping others may, in reality, be hurting them.
Remember, all those seeking help crave our time, our attention and our love. Too many of us find it easier to give money or possessions in instead of our time, attention and love. Our goal is to exhibit the grace of Jesus consistently with the utmost integrity.