Matthew 5:41 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 5:41, NIV: "If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles."

Matthew 5:41, ESV: "And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles."

Matthew 5:41, KJV: "And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."

Matthew 5:41, NASB: "'Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two."

Matthew 5:41, NLT: "If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles."

Matthew 5:41, CSB: "And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two."

What does Matthew 5:41 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jesus is giving a series of examples to show what it would look like not to "resist" an evil person, the standard He has just set for His disciples. If someone slaps you in the face, He said, offer them your other cheek. If someone sues you for your inner garment, just give it to them, along with your outer garment (Matthew 5:38–40).

Now Jesus describes a forced march, of sorts. This example was a clear reference to Israel's Roman occupiers, who were often harsh and unfair in their treatment of the Jewish people. Apparently, Roman soldiers could grab any Jewish citizen they chose and force that person to carry luggage or other items for a standard mile. That kind of oppressive, invasive act would naturally inspire a hunger for revenge. Culturally, it would entice people to violently overthrow the Romans.

Some of Jesus' original audience thought His goal as Messiah was to overthrow the occupiers and drive them out of Israel. That would make His next command shocking: don't refuse, and do even more than you were asked. Depending on how one translates this phrase, it might even mean "walk with them another two miles," adding up to a total of three miles.

Taken out of context, and with cynicism, some hear appeasement and weakness in these words. Human nature jumps to the assumption that Jesus means weakly surrendering to bullies and invaders. Instead, Jesus is describing a person strong enough to take control—strong enough to give to an enemy more than they asked for. In Romans 12:21, the apostle Paul will say it this way, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Jesus does not tell His followers to shrink and wither, even to the slap or the lawsuit or the abuse of authority. He tells them to demonstrate strength by freely giving away more than an enemy can take. This is a demonstration of power in the guise of submission. This kind of response makes it possible for God to demonstrate His goodness even in the face of those with the most evil intent.

Such a response is literally invincible: it entirely refuses to allow the evil person to control the situation. It shouts, in clear terms, that their abuse and insults can't overcome the power and influence of Christ in our life.