Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Part 3

Should you give me all your money? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Could you go ahead down to that Patreon link and give me all your money?

Now according to David Madison, you should do so immediately. Why? Jesus said to give to everyone who asks of you. Right? I just asked you. Why aren’t you giving?

We have the words of Jesus after all!

do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42, NRSV)

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 25). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Oh wait. You’re thinking there’s bound to be some historical context to the message and Madison left that out? You know, that could be right. Let’s see.

As Blomberg says:

None of the commands of vv. 39–42 can easily be considered absolute; all must be read against the historical background of first-century Judaism. Nevertheless, in light of prevailing ethical thought Jesus contrasts radically with most others of his day in stressing the need to decisively break the natural chain of evil action and reaction that characterizes human relationships

Craig Blomberg, Matthew (vol. 22; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 113.


In v. 42 Jesus calls his followers to give to those who ask and not turn from those who would borrow. He presumes that the needs are genuine and commands us not to ignore them, but he does not specifically mandate how best we can help. As Augustine rightly noted, the text says “give to everyone that asks,” not “give everything to him that asks” (De Sermone Domine en Monte 67). Compare Jesus’ response to the request made of him in Luke 12:13–15. It is also crucial to note that “a willingness to forego one’s personal rights, and to allow oneself to be insulted and imposed upon, is not incompatible with a firm stand for matters of principle and for the rights of others (cf. Paul’s attitude in Acts 16:37; 22:25; 25:8–12).” Verses 39–42 thus comprise a “focal instance” of nonretaliation; specific, extreme commands attract our attention to a key ethical theme that must be variously applied as circumstances change

Craig Blomberg, Matthew (vol. 22; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 113–114.

Also, Keener says:

One must surrender one’s possessions to whoever requests them (5:42). Judaism recognized giving to beggars who requested alms as a moral though not legal obligation (Guelich 1982: 223). It stressed both charity and a high work ethic; most beggars genuinely had no alternative means of income. Still, giving anything requested to whoever asks for it (cf. Corn. Nep. 5 [Cimon], 4.2, perhaps a rhetorical overstatement) would quickly leave the giver a beggar, too, once word of one’s limitless generosity spread; this practice would quickly reduce one to the possessionless lifestyle of Cynic mendicants (cf. Schweizer 1975: 130).
Some Jewish teachers also urged lending to those who wished to borrow (Moore 1971: 2:168; Bonsirven 1964: 152–53) or reproved those who would too quickly demand repayment (Sir 20:15); others, however, warned of the danger of losses (Sir 19:4; Syr. Men. Sent. 181–88). Likewise, although some sages considered usury the severest of sins (e.g., Tannaim in b. B. Meṣ. 71a; cf. Jos. Apion 2.208; Ant. 4.266; Ex. Rab. 31:13), businessmen found ways to get around biblical laws against usury (Gamoran 1976), and Gentile creditors (who naturally expected repayment, e.g., Mart. Epig. 2.3; 3.40) were more than ready to seize property to recover outstanding debts (P. Cairo Zen. 59001.39–43; P. Amh. 50; P. Oxy. 269).121 Further, despite pietists’ warnings against pursuing debts ruthlessly (Ps-Phocyl. 83; p. Taʿan. 3:11, §4), Jewish teachers also expected repayment (cf., e.g., Sir 8:12) and even devised ways to guarantee it, lest people quit lending (cf. Sanders 1992: 427–28). Whereas some teachers wanted to impose limits on charity (roughly 20 percent beyond tithes) lest one impoverish oneself out of well-intentioned devotion (Hengel 1974b: 20; cf. Jeremias 1969: 127), Jesus places no cap on giving. Yet while Jesus lived simply, especially once he began his itinerant ministry, Matthew implies that he did have a home (4:13). But if Jesus merely counseled, “Live simply,” without confronting his disciples with forceful images, they might define simplicity in terms of their desires rather than in terms of the world’s needs; his forceful rhetoric demands that his disciples contemplate his intention.
Again Jesus invites his hearers to grapple with his point, to which he will return with far greater force in 6:19–34. If nonresistance means disdaining one’s right to one’s own honor (5:38–39), one’s most basic possessions (5:40), and one’s labor and time (5:41) when others seek them by force, one must also disdain these things in view of the needs of the poor (5:42). When the kingdom comes, one’s deeds rather than one’s wealth will matter (6:19–21; cf. 25:34–46); in the meantime those who disdain everything else for the kingdom (13:44–45) must do with these other possessions what Jesus wills: give them to those who need them more (19:21). One’s “vested interests” must be in heaven, not on earth (6:19–21); if one cannot value the kingdom that much, one has no place in it (19:29–30).

Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), 201–202.

Both writers recognize that Jewish statements often had rhetorical overplay to them and there were various exceptions and Jesus expected some degree of common sense to them, the kind not found in atheistic writers apparently.

Madison goes on to speak about loving your enemies and saying:

The most pressing question here is: Does God the Father love his enemies? In the Old Testament, he is known as Yahweh—a raging tribal deity—and is not much improved in the New Testament: Jesus speaks of fiery hell and suffering worse than at the time of Noah when the Kingdom arrives. The idea that God loves his enemies is a pretty hard sell.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 29). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

No. It’s not a hard sell because God is not just love. God is also justice. Does Madison equate love to a grandfather in the sky who lets the children just get away with anything? That would not be love. I constantly get amazed that atheists asks why God doesn’t deal with evil in the world and when they find accounts of Him doing just that, they say that that was unloving.

But does it trouble you that Jesus is teaching his followers to base their choices about how to love on what reward they will receive? Wouldn’t it be better to be a loving person just because that’s who you are? Wouldn’t it be better to be generous with others just because that’s how you choose to live?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 29). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Except we all do that. Why do you choose to just be generous? It is because that does benefit you in some way. You feel better about yourself or think that you were doing the right thing. Jesus promises that you will be provided for.

And then possibly as Blomberg says:

“What reward will you get?” (v. 46) parallels “What are you doing more than others?” (v. 47), suggesting not the idea of compensation for doing good but the recurrent theme of the believer’s distinctiveness.

Craig Blomberg, Matthew (vol. 22; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 115.

So no, I am not bothered.

If anything, I am bothered by wondering how little research Madison did on these passages.

We’ll continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)



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