Matthew 5:40 is the fortieth verse of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This is the third verse of the antithesis on the commandment: "Eye for an eye".
- And if any man will sue thee at the law, and
- take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
- If anyone sues you to take away your
- coat, let him have your cloak also.
The word coat here can also be translated as shirt, and it refers to the basic garment one would wear on one's upper body. The cloak was a more important piece of clothing used both for warmth during the day and as a blanket during the night. In the sometimes quite cold climate of the region, a cloak was a necessity for survival. Jewish law thus states that one's cloak is not distrainable, it cannot be lost in a lawsuit or seized to pay debts because of its importance. This rule is laid out in Exodus 22:25-26. Nolland notes that the end result of such a policy would be nudity, which Jesus never condemns, but which was also something unacceptable to the society of the time.
This is often interpreted as an example of the non-resistance Jesus advocated in the previous verse. France, however, disagrees with this view. He sees this verse as far more closely linked to Jesus renunciation of property and the material. If one has faith in God one should not be afraid to lose all materials possessions, for even if it leads to great hardship on Earth, they will be properly rewarded by God.
Nolland interprets this verse as referring to a specific case of someone extremely poor, who has nothing but his clothing to be sued for. The demand of the creditor is thus unreasonable and is a possible violation of Jewish law. To Nolland the surrendering of the cloak and the last vestiges of decency will serve to shame the creditor, and show his immorality.
This verse closely parallels a section in Luke, but with some significant changes. In Luke the situation involves highway robbers who demand the more valuable outer cloak, and in Luke Jesus states that the proper path is to then also offer the robbers your shirt. It may also be linked to a tale about the Greek philosopher Diogenes, who is said to have given robbers his shirt as well when they demanded his cloak.
The legend of Saint Martin of Tours has him cutting his cloak in two and giving one half to a beggar.
- Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.
- Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 pg. 252
- France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
- Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 pg. 253
- Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
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