Jesus says: And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
Mathew 5, 40
as a young man I bought the car of my dreams: a VOLVO 264. Second-hand. Lots of miles on it. But 6 cylinders with 2.7 l capacity! I have to admit: I was a something like “crazy dog” when it came to cars! My bank made my dream come true. They gave me a loan. But I had to leave the registration certificate as a pledge. As a security!
The people who listened to Jesus´ “Sermon on the Mount” were not able to go to a bank if they were short of money. If they wanted to buy a new or used donkey, someone had to lend them money. According to the theme "trust is good, a pledge is better" the creditor was allowed to demand a pledge. This could be a coat for example. Moses had established the procedure like this: “When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not go into his house to collect what is offered to you as a pledge. Stay outside and let the neighbor to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you. If the neighbor is poor, and does have only one coat as a pledge, do not keep the coat over night, but rather return it by sunset so that your neighbor may sleep in it and bless you. This will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the Lord your God”. (Deuteronomy 24, 10 – 13)
In Roman times a coat could be vital! Paul reminded Timothy to bring him his cloak before the onset of winter! (2 Tim. 4, 13 + 21). Paul did not want to freeze at night! Such a coat was like a sleeping bag.
Now times have changed of course. With me as well. I have become a little more “reasonable” and today I drive a VW Golf with three cylinders and 1 Liter motor capacity. Not only do I have a coat, but also winter jackets as well. Nobody wants to have them as pledge. So what to do with what Jesus says?
I think his word aims at not being narrow-minded with each other. To be generous when someone asks me for something. Trust that I'll get it back. And if not, then I can do without and not threaten the other person with a lawyer. Or even go to court. Paul resisted court cases among Christians. It is not good to drag the other one to court. He admonishes the church in Corinth (1.Cor. 6, 1 f): “If any of you has a dispute with one another, how can you dare to take the case before an ungodly judge, instead in front of the Lord’s people?”
Okay, I don't want my community to decide about details of my personal affairs. But I don't want to disregard the advice of an experienced counselor either. Charity and mercy fall by the wayside if I only want to enforce "my right" with the help of lawyers and courts. Then a sister or a brother becomes a litigant. Then my sister or my brother, my mother or my father, my daughter or my son becomes an “opponent”.
Sometimes I hear about such disputes within the family. Especially when it comes to inheritance. Inheritance disputes can break up families. Siblings who used to be one heart and soul no longer talk to each other. Family members can even become enemies!
Large banks have to do a so-called stress test (a stress test is an instrument of risk management in the financial industry in terms of eventual financial crisis). I think Jesus´ word about the coat is a kind of stress test for my faith. It shows how generous I can be or how narrow-minded I really am. “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”, Paul is saying (1 Cor. 6, 7).
I do hope that you will be spared such a stress test. I hope you don't have to fight over the family china or single cups and plates, fur coats or old cars. The Lord Jesus Christ had everything be taken away from him. Even his last shirt. He hung naked on the cross at Golgotha. He renounced everything out of love for you and me. He died for my fault. His love has made me rich beyond all measure!