Reflecting on Matthew 5:38-48
Of all the examples Jesus gives of nonviolent resistance—turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile—it’s that business of the tunic that’s hardest, especially in bleak mid-winter.
Jesus says, “If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well.” Try this. Imagine that you need milk and cereal for your kids, but you’re several dollars short at Walmart. The owner says, “Well, it’s snowing and it’s freezing. Give me your parka as collateral.”
Your kids are hungry, so you leave the store with your groceries and go stand at the bus stop with just a sweater to warm you. That parka is your only coat, so when the sun goes down it’s too bitterly cold to go back to the store to deliver the few dollars. In the morning, the police arrive to take you to jail because you haven’t paid for the groceries yet.
Now you’re in front of the judge, shivering in your thin sweater. “Here,” you say, taking off the only protective garment you own. “Since having my parka is so important to the owner, give him my sweater as well.”
It’s all about mercy. We are never to cast such a burden upon people that their most basic needs can’t be met. Hence the scripture, “If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset, for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body” (Exodus 22:26-27).
Use your wits, Jesus says. If your situation puts you in a position of servitude to a Financial Giant, find a way to make him look very small indeed.
How are you helping those without a coat this winter?
Kathy McGovern ©2020