Matthew 5:40

ESV And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
NIV And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
NASB And if anyone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak also.
CSB As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well.
NLT If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.
KJV And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

What does Matthew 5:40 mean?

In this extended teaching, known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been redefining for His listeners what it means to be righteous. He is going beyond the letter of the law, especially as it has been taught by Israel's religious leaders. His purpose is twofold. First, to uncover the true heart of God for His people, as revealed in those commandments. Second, to demonstrate that no person can hope to be "good enough" to earn heaven on their own merit (Matthew 5:20, 48).

Jesus has declared that it is wrong to seek personal revenge. In response to insults—even to a literal "slap in the face"—the best option is to simply "turn the other cheek." Treat the insult as something unworthy of attention and accept that more insults might be coming (Matthew 5:38–39).

The phrase "do not resist the one who is evil," used in the prior verse, applies to that context. Taking it out of context leads to confusion, but even in the immediate sense, it clashes with human nature. It's so "unnatural" that most people reject this teaching. According to worldly wisdom, resistance in the face of evil is noble; it's brave and courageous. Why would Jesus tell His followers not to resist an evil person? The primary reason is that Jesus is speaking in the context of personal matters: He does not, at all, mean this to prohibit self-defense, or the actions of a government to restrain evil.

The other reason Jesus made the comment about not resisting an evil person begins to take shape in this verse. That idea is expanded even further in the following section, about loving enemies. Refusing to resist—meaning to retaliate, in this case—is an act of trust in the God who cares for us and works in the world through us. Personal attacks provide believers with an opportunity to demonstrate God's strength and goodness. For now, Christ offers examples of what it looks like not to resist others.

Going further than petty insults, Jesus now imagines a scenario in which someone would sue a person for their tunic. This was the inner garment commonly worn in Jesus' day. In modern terms, this is literally "the shirt off your back." Instead of fighting them in court, Jesus tells His followers simply to give that person both your tunic and your cloak—the outer garment. What others mean for abuse and insult, Christians can turn into an example of faithful strength.
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