Bible Question:

How can we apply Matthew 5:39-40, Proverbs 24:29 and Proverbs 25:21 to the terrorists who want to destroy America? Deuteronomy 19:21 says that if there is a witness to the crime then show no pity and take an eye for an eye. If Jesus is God, then did He not say these things? These verses sound contradictory.

Bible Answer:

God assumes that husbands will protect their wives, fathers will protect their families, cities will protect citizens, and that a nation will guard and defend its people. God implies this in the Psalms when He says,

. . . Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. (NASB) Psalm 127:1

God does not say that guarding a city is wrong. In fact, He will help the watchman. He assumes we will protect ourselves from violence. God expects that.

Proverbs 5:39-4

So how should we understand Matthew 5:39-40, Proverbs 24:29 and Proverbs 25:21 ?

But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. (NASB) Matt. 5:39-40

Do not say, “Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.” (NASB) Proverbs 24:29

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink . . . (NASB) Proverbs 25:21

These passages are about personal revenge. In the first passage, Jesus corrected the teachings of the Jewish leaders who were teaching that personal revenge against another person was okay as long as you followed certain guidelines. It is amazing how people can use the Bible for selfish reasons. God wants us to have a different heart. He wants us to love others and even help our enemies. He was not telling us to allow others to harm our family, friends, or neighbors. He is speaking to the issue of revenge. You may want to read a study in the Sermon on the Mount to better understand this passage.

In Proverbs 24:29 and Proverbs 25:21, God is telling us once again to not seek personal revenge. God does not honor us if we have an attitude of “getting even,” “pay back,” or retribution.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NASB) Romans 12:17-21

Did you notice that God wants us be at peace with everyone? But He did not say that we are to be at peace at all costs. There may come a time when we need to disagree or even defend ourselves. But the first desire of our heart should be peace and love and not revenge.

Deuteronomy 19:21

Deuteronomy 19:21 is not about revenge. When Jesus uses this verse in the Sermon on the Mount, He is correcting the false teaching of the Pharisees who were twisting its words for personal revenge.

Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (NASB) Deuteronomy 19:21

This passage is actually about capital punishment. There are several previous questions and answers about capital punishment that may be of interest to you. The first one is “What does scripture say about the death penalty?” The second one is “What should be our attitude towards the terrorists?” The last one is about our right to military protection of a nation, “What Old Testament laws can we ignore?


God never contradicts Himself. He is trustworthy. What a great comfort and peace!