And if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also.
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For not in the matter of blows only, but of our goods also, He would have such forbearance exhibited. Wherefore He again employs the same strong figure. That is, as in the other case He commands to overcome in suffering, so here again, by allowing ourselves to be deprived of more than the wrong doer expected. However, He did not put it so merely, but with something to enhance it: not saying, give your cloak to him that asks, but to him that would sue you at the law, that is, if he drag you into court, and give you trouble.
And just as, after He had bidden not to call another fool, nor to be angry without cause, He went on and required more, in that He commanded to offer the right cheek also; even so here, having said, Agree with your adversary, He again amplifies the precept. For now He orders us not only to give what the other would have, but even to show forth a greater liberality.
What then! one may say, am I to go about naked? We should not be naked, if we obeyed these sayings with exactness; rather more abundantly than any should we be clothed. For first, no one would attack men of this disposition; and next, if there chanced to be any one so savage and ungentle, as to proceed even so far, yet many more would be found to clothe him, who acted with such self-denial, not with garments only, but even with their own flesh, if it were possible.
Further: even though one were of necessity to go about naked on account of this sort of self-denial, neither so were it any disgrace. Since Adam too was naked Genesis 2:25 in paradise, and was not ashamed; and Isaiah was naked, and barefoot, and more glorious than all the Jews; Isaiah 20:2-3 and Joseph Genesis 39:12 also, when he stripped himself, did then more than ever shine forth. For to be thus naked is no evil, but to be so clad, as we now are, with costly garments, this is both disgraceful and ridiculous. For this cause, you see, those had praise of God, but these He blames, both by prophets and by apostles.
Let us not therefore suppose His injunctions impossible. Nay, for besides their expediency, they are very easy, if we are sober-minded; and the profit of them is so great as to be an exceeding help, not to ourselves only, but to those also who are using us despitefully. And in this chiefly stands their excellence, that while they induce us to suffer wrong, they by the same means teach them also that do the wrong to control themselves. For while he on his part thinks it a great thing to take what belongs to others, but you signify to him, that to you it is easy to give even what he does not ask: while you bring in liberality for a counterpoise to his meanness, and a wise moderation to his covetousness: consider what a lesson he will get, being taught not by sayings, but by actual deeds, to scorn vice and to seek after virtue.
For God will have us profitable not to ourselves alone, but to all our neighbors as well. Now if you give, and abstainest from suing, you have sought your own advantage only; but if you give him some other thing, you have made him too better, and so sent him away. Of this nature is salt, which is what He would have them to be; seeing it both recruits itself, and keeps all other bodies with which it may associate: of this nature is light; for it shows objects both to a man's self and to all others. Forasmuch then as He has set you in the rank of these things, help thou likewise him who is sitting in darkness, and teach him that neither before did he take any thing by force: persuade him that he has done no despite. Yea, for thus you yourself also will be had in more respect and reverence, if you signify that you gave freely and were not robbed. Make therefore his sin, through your moderation, an instance of your own bounty.