Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 16
Thesis: Beware of the "trap" of foolish unbelief.
Introduction: In our study last week we saw that Jesus' exhortation to "turn the other cheek" has a fairly narrow "field of application". In His own example, it consisted of refusing to resist governmentally established injustice. When this example is seen in this light, Jesus' exhortation becomes a demand that His disciples refuse to engage in activities of insurrection against governmental authority. Any other "settings" have to take into account the issue of whether "turning the other cheek" would involve the violation of the peace and safety of others for whom one bears responsibility.
In that study we also argued that the structure of Jesus' words indicate that He was taking special note of four ways for His disciples to "do good to those who hate them". "Turning the other cheek" was the third of those four ways, following "bless those who curse you" and "pray for those who denigrate you".
This morning we come to the fourth way to "do good to those who hate you". It consists of the odd-to-us exhortation to not "withhold your shirt" from one who "would take your coat". But, just as the "turn the other cheek" exhortation had strong overtones of the historical setting with Rome in dominion over Judah, so also does the "withhold not your shirt" have a specific historical setting. And, though specific historical settings for meaning do create limitations of meaning, there is a strong implication by way of application to which we need to give serious thought.
To do that we need to understand the words in their historical context...
January 27, 2008
- I. The Setting in Which One Would "Take Your Coat".
- A. That setting is not that of a cold winter day in a crime ridden section of town.
- B. That setting is Judah in its struggle to apply the Law of Moses in a highly compromised political situation (practicing Kingdom ethics without having Kingdom rule in place).
- 1. Matthew 23:1-3 tells us that Jesus insisted upon following the Law of Moses in so far as it was possible in the compromised setting of the Kingdom under the dominion of a lesser kingdom because of unfaithfulness.
- 2. The Law of Moses is actually the source of the "taking of one's coat and cloak".
- a. The terminology needs clarification.
- 1) In the mode of dress in those days, people typically wore a garment next to their skin, called a "kiton" ( citwn ) [terribly mistranslated by the AV as a "coat", and given a misguided translation by the NASB as a "shirt"].
- 2) In the same mode of dress, people also wore an outer, covering garment over the "kiton" called a "himation" ( imation ) [translated in the AV as a "cloak" and in the NASB as a "coat"].
- 3) In Luke's text, Jesus is speaking of one that would "take away" the outer garment as well as the inner one, and He insists that the one from whom that outer garment is taken should not refuse to let him have the inner one also.
- a) The word translated "takes away" is very general, but it does have its own "setting" if we look at Matthew 5:40.
- i. This text clearly sets the context as a "legal" issue in which a contractual agreement was made but is being challenged by the party who owes a "garment" but does not want to part with it.
- ii. This means that we are operating under "Law" as it was being practiced in Judah (primarily the Law of Moses).
- b) The word "withhold" is used to mean "to attempt to prevent".
- i. This means that, in the judicial process, one garment is "owed", but the other is being sought also (perhaps as a penalty for forcing the issue into court).
- ii. Jesus' command is to refuse to attempt to block the suit for both garments.
- b. The situation needs clarification.
- 1) In the Law of Moses, there were statutes which governed both of the issues of "borrowing" and "lending".
- a) In those statutes, the issue of a "guarantee of repayment" was covered.
- b) One of the guarantees of repayment was a person's garments because the issue of "borrowing" was mostly a "poverty" issue and one's garments were often pretty much all a poor person had to offer as collateral.
- c) This explains Matthew 5:40's reference to the use of the courts to settle the issue.
- 2) Jesus' words are specifically addressed to one of His disciples who, as a "borrower", has come to "repayment time" and does not have the money to repay.
- a) The one seeking the court's decision to take both garments has now become an "enemy" (putting this instruction under the "do good to those who hate you", "love your enemy", instruction).
- b) The one seeking the court's protection from losing both of his garments is one of Jesus' disciples and has put himself in this situation by borrowing.
- c) In harmony with the next part of Jesus' teaching (How Have You Been Gracious?), He insists that the "borrower", who is now His disciple, must go beyond the Law into Grace and let the "lender" have both what he is due and the other garment also.
- c. The attitude needs clarification.
- 1) When dealing with human beings, one is dealing with a potent set of problems.
- a) The "poor" are very often heavily involved in thinking someone owes them what they want and this often translates into an unwillingness to honor agreements that will take away what they want.
- b) The "rich" are very often heavily involved in attempting to acquire more and this translates into an unwillingness to forego agreements that would be of significant distress to others.
- 2) When dealing with His Kingdom, Jesus has no tolerance for anyone who thinks breaking his word is justifiable.
- II. What Obedience to Jesus Would Mean.
- A. In the short term: nakedness with all of the humiliation that would bring.
- 1. The real issue here is precisely this: Jesus insists that His disciples not fear being humiliated.
- a. The humiliation is multi-tiered.
- 1) The obvious humiliation of nakedness.
- 2) The attendant humiliation of the inadequacy of manhood.
- b. No one can be a disciple of Jesus if his pride is more important to him than being faithful to Jesus.
- 2. The secondary issues in the short term include everything that stacks up when the money runs out.
- B. In the long term: wisdom and confidence.
- 1. In respect to wisdom...
- a. The issue has to do with two fundamental attitudes.
- 1) Borrowing when there is no "food and covering" issue on the table is simply an expression of greed.
- a) Paul commanded Timothy to be content with food and covering (1 Timothy 6:6- 11).
- b) Hebrews 13:5 pointedly demands that believers be free of covetousness so that they are "content with" what they have.
- c) Paul told the Philippians that he had actually learned to be content in whatever condition he found himself to be (4:11).
- 2) Borrowing when there is a "food or covering" issue on the table is simply a short-sighted act of foolishness.
- a) If one's prosperity situation has gotten so profound that there is no food to eat, where is there any basis for thinking that it "will get better" by the simple passing of time?
- b) Borrowing under these circumstances is simply digging a deeper hole.
- c) Digging a deeper hole is nothing more or less than "foolishness" that needs to be corrected by wisdom.
- b. The issue has to do with the "wisdom" of rejecting the short term "threats" in favor of the longer term "blessings".
- 2. In respect to confidence...
- a. Luke 12:22-31 follows the Luke 6 description of Jesus' teaching and it addresses the great fears that lead to "borrowing".
- b. The privilege of growth in confidence is only given to those who allow themselves to be put in the situations which will produce it.