Who do I give to?
August 13, 2022
By Barry Fike
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 (chapter) 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. (cite)
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.
. If your brother, not an unruly brother, one who is part of the kingdom, one in whom you have confidence and trust, you can take him at his word because he is one who is of a pure heart, he is one who is trustworthy, he has not lifted himself up to deceit nor sworn falsely, comes to you and he needs to borrow your automobile then loan it to him. But you loan it to him with the understanding that he’s going to return it when he’s finished with it, and when he says that he’s going to return it that it’s going to be in the same condition that it was when it left. It has to do with the temporary use of a possession. You loan a thing and that thing that you loan is returned in the same condition in which it was borrowed. Someone may need to borrow some money. The implication is that we loan to brothers and those who a part of the kingdom and those who are honest and trustworthy without interest. Do you remember where it talks about usury? But it doesn’t mean that we still can’t conduct good business, and we still can’t use business principles. If someone wants to borrow money there isn’t anything wrong with charging the current rate of interest if you feel comfortable in doing so. That has to be between you and your conscience, and the Lord. The implication here is that whatever it is that is borrowed is going to be repaid. It’s not going to be the same thing that’s loaned. In other words, you may loan a ten-dollar bill and he may going out and spend it so he can’t give you back that ten dollar bill but he pays you back another ten dollar bill. Or, you loan a cup of flour and they use it to bake a cake and when they get the flour back they can’t return that same cup of flour. The implication here is that you loan only to those of the kingdom who are responsible kingdom people. But you don’t foolishly give to anyone that asks you or are irresponsible or you know that they’re not going to return to you…they’re not men or women of their word. Why? Because God has placed us as stewards over his possessions, and he expects us to be good stewards of them. If we loan to those that we know are not good kingdom people and are not going to keep and honor their word then it’s manifesting poor stewardship on our part.
It’s important to remember that 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. 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.