Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison.
All Commentaries on Matthew 5:25 Go To Matthew 5
That is, that you may not say, What then, if I am injured; what if I am plundered, and dragged too before the tribunal? even this occasion and excuse He has taken away: for He commands us not even so to be at enmity. Then, since this injunction was great, He draws His advice from the things present, which are wont to restrain the grosser sort more than the future. Why, what do you say? says He. That your adversary is stronger, and does you wrong? Of course then he will wrong you more, if you do not make it up, but art forced to go into court. For in the former case, by giving up some money, you will keep your person free; but when you have come under the sentence of the judge, you will both be bound, and pay the utmost penalty. But if you avoid the contest there, you will reap two good results: first, not having to suffer anything painful: and secondly, that the good done will be thereafter your own doing, and no longer the effect of compulsion on his part. But if you will not be ruled by these sayings, you wrong not him, so much as yourself.
And see here also how He hastens him; for having said, Agree with your adversary, He added, quickly; and He was not satisfied with this, but even of this quickness He has required a further increase, saying, Whilst you are in the way with him; pressing and hastening him hereby with great earnestness. For nothing does so much turn our life upside down, as delay and procrastination in the performance of our good works. Nay, this has often caused us to lose all. Therefore, as Paul for his part says, Before the sun set, do away the enmity; and as He Himself had said above, Before the offering is completed, be reconciled; so He says in this place also, Quickly, while you are in the way with him, before you have come to the doors of the court; before you stand at the bar and art come to be thenceforth under the sway of him that judges. Since, before entering in, you have all in your own control; but if you set your foot on that threshold, you will not by ever so earnest efforts be able to arrange your matters at your will, having come under the constraint of another.
But what is it to agree? He means either, consent rather to suffer wrong? or, so plead the cause, as if you were in the place of the other; that you may not corrupt justice by self-love, but rather, deliberating on another's cause as your own, may so proceed to deliver your vote in this matter. And if this be a great thing, marvel not; since with this view did He set forth all those His blessings, that having beforehand smoothed and prepared the hearer's soul, he might render it apter to receive all His enactments.
Now some say that He obscurely signifies the devil himself, under the name of the adversary; and bids us have nothing of his, (for this, they say, is to agree with him): no compromise being possible after our departure hence, nor anything awaiting us, but that punishment, from which no prayers can deliver. But to me He seems to be speaking of the judges in this world, and of the way to the court of justice, and of this prison.
For after he had abashed men by higher things, and things future, he alarms them also by such as are in this life. Which thing Paul also does, using both the future and the present to sway his hearer: as when, deterring from wickedness, he points out to him that is inclined to evil, the ruler armed: thus saying, But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain; for he is a minister of God. Romans 13:4 And again, enjoining us to be subject unto him, he sets forth not the fear of God only, but the threatening also of the other party, and his watchful care. For you must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. Romans 5:5 Because the more irrational, as I have already said, are wont to be sooner corrected by these things, things which appear and are at hand. Wherefore Christ also made mention, not of hell only, but also of a court of justice, and of being dragged there, and of the prison, and of all the suffering there; by all these means destroying the roots of murder. For he who neither reviles, nor goes to law, nor prolongs enmity, how will he ever commit murder? So that from hence also it is evident, that in the advantage of our neighbor stands our own advantage. For he that agrees with his adversary, will benefit himself much more; becoming free, by his own act, from courts of law, and prisons, and the wretchedness that is there.
14. Let us then be obedient to His sayings; let us not oppose ourselves, nor be contentious; for first of all, even antecedently to their rewards, these injunctions have their pleasure and profit in themselves. And if to the more part they seem to be burdensome, and the trouble which they cause, great; have it in your mind that you are doing it for Christ's sake, and the pain will be pleasant. For if we maintain this way of reckoning at all times, we shall experience nothing burdensome, but great will be the pleasure we reap from every quarter; for our toil will no longer seem toil, but by how much it is enhanced, so much the sweeter and pleasanter does it grow.
When therefore the custom of evil things, and the desire of wealth, keep on bewitching you; do thou war against them with that mode of thinking which tells us, Great is the reward we shall receive, for despising the pleasure which is but for a season; and say to your soul; Are you quite dejected because I defraud you of pleasure? Nay, be of good cheer, for I am introducing you into Heaven. You do it not for man's sake, but for God's. Be patient therefore a little while, and you shall see how great is the gain. Endure for the present life, and you shall receive an unspeakable confidence. For if we would thus discourse with our own soul, and not only consider that which is burdensome in virtue, but take account also of the crown that comes thereof, we shall quickly withdraw it from all wickedness.
For if the devil, holding out pleasure for a season, but pain for ever, is yet strong, and prevails; seeing our case is just the reverse in these matters, the labor temporary, the pleasure and profit immortal, what plea shall we have, if we follow not virtue after so great encouragement? Why, the object of our labors is enough to set against all, and our clear persuasion that for God's sake we are enduring all this. For if one having the king his debtor, thinks he has sufficient security for all his life; consider how great will he be, who has made the Gracious and Everlasting God a debtor to himself, for good deeds both small and great. Do not then allege to me labors and sweats; for not by the hope only of the things to come, but in another way also, God has made virtue easy, assisting us everywhere, and putting His hand to our work. And if you will only contribute a little zeal, everything else follows. For to this end He will have you too to labor a little, even that the victory may be yours also. And just as a king would have his own son present indeed in the array; he would have him shoot with the bow, and show himself, that the trophy may be reckoned his, while he achieves it all Himself: even so does God in our war against the devil: He requires of you one thing alone, that you show forth a sincere hatred against that foe. And if you contribute this to Him, He by Himself brings all the war to an end. Though thou burn with anger, with desire of riches, with any tyrannical passion whatever; if He see you only stripping yourself and prepared against it, He comes quickly to you, and makes all things easy, and sets you above the flame, as He did those children of old in the Babylonian furnace: for they too carried in with them nought but their good will.
In order then that we also may extinguish all the furnace of disordered pleasure here, and so escape the hell that is there, let these each day be our counsels, our cares, and our practice, drawing towards us the favor of God, both by our full purpose concerning good works, and by our frequent prayers. For thus even those things which appear insupportable now, will be most easy, and light, and lovely. Because, so long as we are in our passions, we think virtue rugged and morose and arduous, vice desirable and most pleasing; but if we would stand off from these but a little, then both vice will appear abominable and unsightly, and virtue easy, mild, and much to be desired. And this you may learn plainly from those who have done well. Hear, for instance, how of those passions Paul is ashamed, even after his deliverance from them, saying, For what fruit had ye then in those things, whereof you are now ashamed? Romans 6:21 But virtue, even after his labor, he affirms to be light, calling the laboriousness of our affliction momentary and light, and rejoicing in his sufferings, and glorying in his tribulations, and taking a pride in the marks wherewith he had been branded for Christ's sake.
In order then that we too may establish ourselves in this habit, let us order ourselves each day by what has been said, and forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, let us press on towards the prize of the high calling: Philippians 3:13-14 unto which God grant that we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.