Do I Give to Everyone?   

December 12, 2022

by Barry Fike

Verse 42


Give to him that asketh thee- It’s significant to again remember the context in which we find this.  The context deals with resisting, or competing with one who is evil.  You are trying to get back at someone.  Jesus says, “Don’t try to get back at someone who is upset with you or angry with you or has done you some wrong.”   If he wants to borrow from you give him the loan.  Don’t refuse to give him a loan because of your anger towards him.    

          There are two different Hebrew words used here and, although we have the common Hebrew parallelism in the two phrases in this sentence, there is, nonetheless, a slight difference in meaning.

          The word ‘ask,’ sha’al, can mean a number of things but, in this context, means specifically to ask as a favor for temporary use, as opposed to the word, lavah, used in the second phrase, which means borrow as a matter of business.   In the first phrase, if a brother comes asking to borrow, as a favor, an item such as a book, then it would be loaned with the understanding that the book will be returned to the person from whom it was borrowed in the condition in which it was borrowed.  In the second sense, if a brother comes in the course of a business transaction to borrow money, then that brother would be required to return not the same money but the same amount.

          In Hebrew you also have two different words for loan.  In our English versions it is translated “ask” and “borrow”.  In Hebrew “ask,” unlike its Greek and English counterparts, has three meanings: 1) “ask a question”; 2) “make a request”; and 3) “borrow.”  In Hebrew, therefore, “ask” can sometimes be a synonym for “borrow.”  Why are there two words for “borrow?”  One word is for something which you return in kind.  Another word is for a loan which you return.  For instance, if I borrow a car then I return the same car.  But if I borrow some sugar, I can give you back the same amount of sugar but not the same sugar.  In English we have the same word for both but not in Hebrew.  In this verse both words are used by Jesus as synonyms.  We think to say the same thing twice is redundant, but in Hebrew it’s beautiful poetry.  The English versions are misleading whereas in Hebrew it’s elegant and perfectly clear.  It’s another example of Hebrew parallelism. 

          A number of points again should be noted for a clearer understanding.  That this is couched in a context of a relationship between brothers is established from verse 43 when Jesus speaks of one’s relationship to his ‘enemy’.   In Greek, the word is ekthros and simply means, in New Testament Greek, one who hates you.  In classical Greek, however, there are three words for enemy, polemios, ekthros, and dusmenis.  A polemios is one who is at war with you.  A dusmenis is a brother who has been alienated for a long period of time and refuses to be reconciled.  But an ekthros, the Greek word used here, is one who has been philos (Or a brother, but is alienated).   In the Mishnah, in Order Nezikin, Tractate Sanhedrin 3, Mishnah 5, an enemy is identified as anyone who has not spoken with his brother, through enmity, for three days.  As such, he was disqualified from acting as either a judge or a witness in a court of law.[1]

          So we see the relationships discussed here are those of brother to brother.   Jesus is simply saying, “If there’s a brother who’s upset with you, who’s angry with you, and he has wronged you, and you’re kind of on the outs with him, and he comes along and needs a loan, give it to him.  Don’t try to get back at him by denying him that loan.”  The first is a loan of something which you have to return that same object and the second one is the loan of which you return the equivalent amount.                           

          But there is more to be said, since everything belongs to God, and we are simply stewards over that which He has entrusted to our keeping.  The relationships discussed here are those of brother to brother.  But about this point more needs to be said.  Since everything belongs to God and we are simply stewards over that which He has entrusted to our keeping we have a responsibility to see to it that that which we loan will, first, not be abused, and second, that we know the individual well enough to know that they are responsible and an individual of integrity.  If we know that a person is irresponsible, not a person of his word, and has no intention of returning that which was borrowed, we have a responsibility not to lend.  We are certainty not commanded to turn over our possessions to anyone who might ask for them.

              [1] Philip Blackman, Mishnayoth, Gateshead: Judaica Press, 1964. vol. 4, 248.