Thursday, July 9, 2009

Going the Extra Mile

Do you ever go the extra mile? Do you ever expect other people to go the extra mile? Do you know what it means?

The saying originates from something Jesus said. “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him two.” (Matthew 5:41) In Jesus’ day, Roman law permitted a Roman soldier to compel anyone to carry his pack for him, but only a mile. Jesus was saying that instead of just doing what we are required by law to do, we should go beyond that. In other words, don’t do the bare minimum.

One of the interesting things in looking at this passage is that Jesus isn’t talking about the stuff we want to do. These are things that we don’t want to do. Someone takes us to court. We don’t want to pay the judgment, but if we have been found in the wrong then we should pay more than what the court rules. We don’t want to carry a soldier’s heavy pack, but rather than doing so grudgingly, we should carry it farther that he can force us to.

Going the extra mile is sacrificial in nature. Imagine you are at work, ready to head home and your boss stops by your desk. “I need to you work a couple hours overtime.” You have little choice but to do it, but it that going the extra mile? No. But suppose you reach the end of the two hours, your boss looks at the time and says, “I know you need to head home. I’ll work on this some more and will pick it up again tomorrow.” It’s been a long day and you’re even more ready to head home to your family than before. You open your mouth and say, “I’ll stay until we get it done.” Now, you aren’t doing what you are compelled to do, but you are going beyond that to do what needs to be done.

Many people use the phrase when they are talking about doing more than what most people do or when they go out of their way to impress people. In some cases, that could be going the extra mile, but until we are in a situation where someone in authority tells us to do something and we do more than they require, we aren’t actually going the extra mile. We shouldn’t just live to the letter of the law, but follow the intent of the law.