In Hebrew culture borrowing indicated economic hardship, not a strategy for expanding business or household. (See
Leviticus 25:35-37, which assumes that borrowers are poor.) In Deuteronomy God's blessings of prosperity was understood to exclude the need to borrow (Deuteronomy 15:6;
Deuteronomy 26:12). Thus poverty was not considered to be a desirable situation for anyone in the covenant community. The dire straits requiring borrowing are illustrated in
Nehemiah 5:1-5. With typical shifts in fortune borrowing was common practice in Hebrew society, and rules were needed so that the poor were not victimized by creditors. Laws for restitution were also established for borrowed property that was damaged (Exodus 22:14-15).
Matthew 5:42, Jesus cites generosity “from him that would borrow of thee” as one example of an unexpected, loving response (instead of the typical self-protective response) to others' demands and abuses. In each example (Matthew 5:38-42) the disciple's primary concern is the other person, not protecting one's own vested interests. The second person singular in
Matthew 5:42 makes clear the personal nature of this response to the would-be borrower. This passage is part of Jesus' consistent emphasis on absolute loyalty to the way of God's kingdom, which necessitates a carefree regard for one's possessions (Matthew 6:24-34) and personal security (Matthew 5:43-48) as one unselfishly loves the neighbor.
David Nelson Duke