Have you ever heard the expression, “Go the extra mile!” The phrase is based on the teaching of Jesus in:
Matthew 5:40–42 – And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Let me explain some background information to help understand this passage. In the days of Jesus, Israel was occupied by the Romans, who could make them do certain menial tasks. The item in question was a law that the Romans had that said that if a Roman officer was on a journey through a conquered area, he could ask a person to carry his backpack and weapons for one mile.
This of course was humiliating for any Jew. To be coerced by force to carry anyone’s stuff, let alone the Romans who were seen as the foreign enemy occupying their land, just brewed resentment. So, with that context in mind, Jesus says, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
In other words, do more than is required by the law.
What will doing more than required actually do?
1. It will change your attitude
The first mile you are required to do, you are the slave. In the first mile you are being controlled. But in the second mile you are the victor. The first mile makes you bitter. The second mile makes you better. The first mile is done for man. The second mile is done for the Lord.
2. It will make you a blessing
Some Christians never go deeper in their spiritual life because they never do more than is required. They feel that it is required to do devotions, and so they do the bare minimum, reading a verse or two so they can tick off that box for the day. As a result, the joy of meeting with God gets lost and forgotten. Or they feel that is required to give an offering, but they give the bare minimum. As a result the joy of “cheerful giving” (2 Corinthians 9:7) is missed as well as the blessing that generosity brings.
Henry Ford, the man who built the Ford organization, once bought the Lincoln Factory in Detroit, which was losing money, and he intended to turn it around.
After he bought the place he had someone cut down a tree and trim the branches and put that log in the factory at the base of the elevators that took office employees up to the offices up top. The next morning when everyone came in, they found the log there and stepped over it on their way to their offices. They may have said something, but the executives, VPs, managers, secretaries, and employees all stepped over it on their way into the elevator. The caretakers cleaned around it, and everyone thought, “I don’t know why that log is there, but it’s not my department. It’s not in my job description to clean out logs.”
The story goes that after three weeks Ford called everyone into a meeting and said, “I put that log there and not one of you asked about it. Not one of you did anything to remove it, and all of you are fired.” He fired everyone on that floor and hired new people. As a result, the business was turned around.
You see, doing more than is required brings blessing in whatever realm. In the business realm, in the emotional realm, in the spiritual realm, in your marriage, and in the church. Take your marriage. Often in a marriage there are unspoken expectations of the other spouse. What would happen if you go beyond what they expect of you? It would bring new life to that relationship. When she asks you to empty the dishwasher and after doing that you say, “Is there anything else you want me to do?” It will breathe new life into your relationship.
You see, when a person goes beyond what is expected of them, it always brings good things as a result.
3. It is a positive advertisement for Jesus
Imagine a man who is working in the fields, and a Roman soldier sees him and commands him to come here. He walks over. He knows what’s coming next. “Pick up my bag and carry it.” He picks it up reluctantly. He doesn’t say a word to the soldier. He is cursing under his breath. He walks the mile. Then he walks back home angry. His wife says, “How was your day?” He says, “I don’t want to talk about it. I hate those Romans. They take advantage of us! I’m going to get back at them one day.” He is full of bitterness, resentment, and frustration.
Now, imagine a different scenario with a different man. He has heard Jesus’ teaching and has decided to follow Christ. One day a soldier asks him to carry his bag. He does it. He says, “I’d be glad to,” and as they walk the man talks to the soldier and asks, “How are you doing? Where are you from? How long have you been in the army?” As they reach the one mile marker the man says to the soldier, “You look tired. It’s a long trip for you. Let me carry this another mile for you.”
The second mile is so different from the first. By the end of the second mile you can be sure that the soldier’s opinion of the man has changed. He says, “I had the wrong idea about your people.” The man says, “Don’t worry, I have had the wrong impression about you Romans. But I can now see you’re human like me.” The soldier says, “Let me ask you, why you went that second mile?” The man says, “Have you ever heard of a teacher named Jesus. I have come to believe he is the Messiah and Son of God, and he taught us to always do more than required and go the extra mile.”
You know what that Roman will say? “Tell me more about this Jesus!!!”
Can you imagine the witness of something like that? Don’t you think it would make a difference if you did that in your office? In your home? At your school? In the church? Whenever we do more than required, we are a positive advertisement for Jesus, and do you know what I think? If we live like that Monday to Friday, more people will start coming to church on Sunday!!
You know who else went the extra mile? Jesus did. He left heaven and came to earth to die on the cross and pay the penalty for our sins. If we got what was required, we would have been given judgment. Instead, we have received grace and mercy.
Romans 5:10 – For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
We deserve judgment and death and hell. But Jesus did for us more than we deserved.
May we have the same attitude as our Lord as we live out our faith!