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EP 121: Have We No Rights? (Matthew 5:38-42 – Sermon on the Mount Series)

Today, we live in a culture all about self and our rights and self-esteem. Jesus desires those of us in Christ not to be self-focused and not to take offense so quickly that we immediately seek retaliation. @thankfulhomemaker

Today, we live in a culture all about self and our rights and self-esteem. Jesus desires those of us in Christ not to be self-focused and not to take offense so quickly that we immediately seek retaliation.
Our hope is to have our eyes so focused on Christ and who we are in Christ and our purpose and mission that we don’t let insults or criticism bother or thwart our mission.

This is the fifth of Jesus’ statements, “you heard that it was said but I say to you,” where Jesus is calling for our righteousness to surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees.

Matthew 5:38-42:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Are we willing to give up our rights for the sake of the Gospel? Click to Tweet

The fulfillment of this law would be found in the one who did not seek revenge for a wrong against him. It was meant to restrain retaliation.

Listen to the Podcast Below:


With the Master . . . On the Mount: A Ladies’ Bible Study of the Sermon on the Mount by Susan Heck

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd Jones

Have We No Rights? by Mabel Williamson (this link is the free version on The Project Gutenberg – the image links to an Amazon book copy or Kindle version)

EP 13: Choosing Forgiveness @Thankful Homemaker

What is the Gospel?

Show Notes:

“We live in a day when most people are intensely conscious of their rights. In such a climate it is not unusual for a believer in Jesus Christ to be asking, “What are my rights—as a Christian? Do I have a right to success or wealth? to a home or a family? to a good name? to be respected?” Perhaps you have asked these questions also or others like them. Do you have rights? The verses from the Sermon on the Mount to which we now come to answer these questions directly, and they say—striking as it may seem—that there are no rights for Christians. 

These verses teach that a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ has no right to retaliation, no right to things, no right to his own time, and no right to his money. In other words, he holds all his possessions in trust from the Lord, and he is obliged to use them as Jesus did, to help others.”

~ James Montgomery Boice, Expositional Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount

A group of half a dozen missionaries were gathered for prayer in a simply furnished living room of a mission house in China. For a few minutes one of the group spoke to us out of his heart, and I shall never forget the gist of what he said.

“You know,” he began, “there’s a great deal of difference between eating bitterness  [Chinese idiom for ‘suffering hardship’]and eating loss [Chinese idiom for ‘suffering the infringement of one’s rights’]. ‘Eating bitterness’ is easy enough. To go out with the preaching band, walk twenty or thirty miles to the place where you are to work, help set up the tent, placard the town with posters, and spend several weeks in a strenuous campaign of meetings and visitation—why, that’s a thrill! Your bed may be made of a couple of planks laid on sawhorses, and you may have to eat boiled rice, greens, and beancurd three times a day. But that’s just the beauty of it! Why it’s good for anyone to go back to the simple life! A little healthy ‘bitterness’ is good for anybody!

“When I came to China,” he continued, “I was all ready to ‘eat bitterness’ and like it. That hasn’t troubled me particularly. It takes a little while to get your palate and your digestion used to Chinese food,\\\[Pg 9] of course, but that was no harder than I had expected. Another thing, however”—and he paused significantly—”another thing that I had never thought about came up to make trouble. I had to ‘eat loss’! I found that I couldn’t stand up for my rights—that I couldn’t even have any rights. I found that I had to give them up, everyone, and that was the hardest thing of all.”

That missionary was right. On the mission field, it is not the enduring of hardships, the lack of comforts, and the roughness of the life that make the missionary cringe and falter. It is something far less romantic and far more real. It is something that will hit you right down where you live. The missionary has to give up having his own way. He has to give up having any rights. He has, in the words of Jesus, to “deny himself.” He just has to give up himself.

Paul knew all about this. If you do not believe it, look at I Corinthians 9. “Have we no right to eat and to drink?” he asks. “Have we not a right to forbear working?… Nevertheless,” he goes on, “we did not use this right…. Though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more” (vv. 4, 6, 12, 19).

Paul, as a missionary, willingly gave up his rights for the sake of the Gospel. Are we ready to do the same?

~ Have We No Rights? by Mabel Williamson

Instead of properly acknowledging the law of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth as a limit on punishment, they (referring to the scribes & Pharisees) conveniently used it as a mandate for vengeance—as it has often been wrongly viewed throughout history. What God gave as a restriction on civil courts, Jewish tradition had turned into a personal license for revenge. In still another way, the self-centered and self-asserted “righteousness” of the scribes and Pharisees had made a shambles of God’s holy law.”

~ John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 1-7

Behind this lies the principle by which every Christian is called to live: do not make your rights the basis for your relationships with others. Be prepared to take a lowly position, as a humble servant; be prepared to pay the price of imitating the example of Jesus.

~ Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount

“Jesus is reminding his disciples in this figurative way that to stand on their ‘rights’ and seek to have their dignity reaffirmed is not the Christian response to any insult. Let the insults come says Jesus and show by your response that you feel no need for retaliation, because you have your reputation secure with God, as his child. Let your response to insult be gracious—just as your Father’s response to your insult of sin against him has been so gracious. 

Will anyone be won for the kingdom by your retaliation, by your standing on your rights? How could they be, the  King in the kingdom is the one who did not retaliate?”

~ Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount

Hudson Taylor, standing on a riverbank in China one evening, hailed a boat to take him across a river. Just as the boat was drawing near, a wealthy Chinese came along who did not recognize Hudson Taylor as a foreigner because he had affected native dress. So when the boat came he struck and thrust Hudson Taylor aside with such force that the latter fell into the mud. Hudson Taylor, however, said nothing; BUT the boatman refused to take his fellow countryman, saying,  ‘No, that foreigner called me, and the boat is his, and he must go first.’ The Chinese traveler was amazed and astounded when he realized he had blundered. Hudson Taylor did not complain but invited the man into the boat with him and began to tell him what it was in him that made him behave in such a manner. As a foreigner, he could have resented such treatment, but he did not do so because of the grace of God in him. A conversation followed which Hudson Taylor had every reason to believe made a deep impression upon that man and upon his soul.

“Our Lord desires to produce in us a spirit that does not take offense easily at such things, that does not seek immediate means of retaliation. He wants us to reach a state in which we are indifferent to self and self-esteem” 

~ Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

The attitude of a kingdom citizen, one who is truly righteous, should be willing to surrender even one’s coat, his extremely valuable outer garment, rather than cause offense of hard feelings with an adversary. The court could not demand the coat, but it could be voluntarily given to meet the required debt. And that is precisely what Jesus says we should be willing to do. Offer more for any wrong to show our regret and to show we are not bitter or resentful to the one who has sued us. 

When someone asks to borrow something from us, we should not turn away from him. In other words, we should give him what he wants. The implication is that the person who asks has a genuine need. We are not required to respond to every foolish, selfish request made of us. Sometimes to give a person what he wants but does not need is a disservice, doing him more harm than good. 

~ John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7 (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary) (Volume 1) 

Let us not be stingy in our dealings with men. There are certain things that must be done, but let us go beyond the must, and do our duty with a smile, and with generous kindness. It is not enough to pay our servants or employees, let us be thankful for their service; it is not enough to pay our debts, let us give the word also of appreciation; it is not enough to simply do the work for which our employer compensates us, let us do it with cheerfulness and eagerness, willing to finish a piece of necessary service even at cost to ourselves. As the followers of Christ, we are to be stars bearing our light on the vault of night; flowers shedding fragrance on the world; fountains rising in the arid wastes; always giving love and helpful ministry to this thankless and needy world, and as we break and distribute our barley loaves and fishes, our hands will become filled again, and with the measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again.

~ F. B. Meyer

“When someone has a genuine need, you meet it. If they need food, you give it to them; if they need to borrow your car, you let them. These are not your things, anyway; everything you have is because God gave it to you. It all belongs to Him!”

~ Susan Heck, With the Master . . . On the Mount: A Ladies’ Bible Study of the Sermon on the Mount 

“There was a day when I died, utterly died to George Mueller and his opinions, his preferences, and his tastes and his will. I died to the world, to its approval and its censure. I died to the approval or the blame of even my brethren and friends. And since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.”

~ George Mueller

Scripture References:

  • Matthew 5:38-42
  • 1 Corinthians 9:4,6,12,19
  • Exodus 21:24
  • Leviticus 24:20
  • Deuteronomy 19:21
  • Deuteronomy 19:16-21
  • Romans 13:1-7
  • John 18:23
  • Acts 16:37
  • Romans 12:17-21
  • Psalm 112:5
  • Luke 6:35
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:10
  • 1 Timothy 5:8
  • 2 Corinthians 12:10

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