Go The Extra Mile
Do you know what generous means? Generous is, ‘showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected.’ When I read that, I think immediately of going the extra mile. A veteran Christian might recognize that this phrase is originally Biblical. It’s Jesus, in Matthew 5:41 (NIV), explaining, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Now, this doesn’t make heaps of sense to most of us today, but it was crystal clear to the people listening to Jesus. They knew from experience that their overlords, specifically the Romans, and nearby the Persians, had provisions allowing them to force into service the oppressed peoples to help convey packages and messages – sort of a 1st century FedEx (ForcedEx?) – to a distance of a mile. This is what happened to Simon of Cyrene, forced to carry Jesus’ cross in Matthew 27:32. For Jesus, the first mile is expected as required by law and custom. But what makes space for generosity is to ‘go with them two miles’ – to go the extra mile.
In today’s Bible reading from Luke 6, Jesus is applying this maxim in different scenarios:
In verse 27, most might rate it acceptable to avoid your enemies; Jesus’ generous prompt is to love them.
In verse 28, most could consider it satisfactory to avoid speaking evil of those who curse you; Jesus’ generous standard is to bless them.
Also in verse 28, most would figure stoic silence the best-possible response to ill-treatment; Jesus’ generous reaction is to pray for them.
In verse 29, ‘good’ parents might counsel children to run away from someone who slaps them on the cheek; Jesus’ mind-boggling generous alternative is to turn to them the other cheek as well.
Also, refraining from suing the person who stole your coat epitomizes high-minded civil forbearance; but Jesus’ generous response is to make your shirt available as well.
In the context of finances and loans, Jesus instructs us to lend money to enemies ‘without expecting to get anything back’ (v35).
Here’s the summary section in our Luke reading (37, 38 NIV):
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
What a depiction of abundance! That’s the norm of generosity for the disciple of Jesus. Adam Clarke explains, “There is no such thing as true unmixed generosity but in God only; because there is none but Him who receives no advantage from His gifts.” And so for us, the challenge is to remain hidden ‘in God only’, so that our actions can be accepted as ‘true unmixed generosity’.