Matthew 5:40 MEANING

Matthew 5:40
(40) If any man will sue thee at the law.--The Greek is somewhat stronger: If a man will go--i.e., is bent on going--to law with thee. The verse presents another aspect of the same temper of forbearance. Not in regard to acts of violence only, but also in dealing with the petty litigation that disturbs so many men's peace, it is better to yield than to insist on rights. St. Paul gives the same counsel to the believers at Corinth: "Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" (1 Corinthians 6:7). Here also, of course, the precept, absolutely binding, as far as self-interest is concerned, may be traversed by higher considerations.

Coat.--The close-fitting tunic worn next the body.

Cloke.--The outer flowing mantle, the more costly garment of the two. (Comp. John 19:23, and the combination of the two words, in Acts 9:39, "coats and garments.") The meaning of the illustration is obvious. It is wise rather to surrender more than is demanded, than to disturb the calm of our own spirit by wrangling and debate.

Verse 40. - The parallel passage, Luke 6:29b, gives the taking of the garments in the converse order. And if any man will sue thee; Revised Version, and if any man would go to law with thee. Notice that "will," "would" (τῷ θέλοντι), implies that the trial has not yet even begun. Do this even before it. And take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. Coat (χιτών), equivalent to tunic, "shirt-like under-garment" (Meyer). Cloke (ἱμάτιον), equivalent to over-cloak, "mantle-like over-garment, toga, which also served for a covering by night, and might not therefore be retained as a pledge over night (Exodus 22:26)' (Meyer). This is put second, as being the more valuable. In Luke, where there is no mention of the law-court, the thought seems to be merely of the violent removal of the garments, taking them as they came. Let him have (ἄφες αὐτῷ). More positive than Luke's "withhold not" (μὴ κωλύσῃς).

5:38-42 The plain instruction is, Suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord's keeping. And the sum of all is, that Christians must avoid disputing and striving. If any say, Flesh and blood cannot pass by such an affront, let them remember, that flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and those who act upon right principles will have most peace and comfort.And if any man will sue thee at the law,.... Or "will contend with thee", or as the Syriac renders it, , "will strive", or "litigate with thee"; not contest the matter, or try the cause in an open court of judicature, a sense our version inclines to; but will wrangle and quarrel in a private way, in order to

take away thy coat, by force and violence,

let him have thy cloak also; do not forbid, or hinder him from taking it; see Luke 6:29. The "coat", is the same with "the upper garment": and what we render a "cloak", answers to "the inward garment"; by which words Sangari expresses the passage in the place before cited: and the sense is, if a wrangling, quarrelsome man, insists upon having thy coat, or upper garment, let him take the next; and rather suffer thyself to be stripped naked than engage in a litigious broil with him. This also is contrary to the above canon of the Jews (i), which says;

"If a man should pull another by his ear, or pluck off his hair, or spit, and his spittle should come to him, or "should take his coat from him", or uncover a woman's head in the street, he shall pay four hundred "zuzim", and all this is according to his dignity; says R. Akiba; even the poor in Israel, they consider them as if they were noblemen, who are fallen from their estates, for they are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.''

(i) Misn. Bava Kama, c. 8. sect. 6.

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