This story, which on its face deals solely with non-attachment, has its counterpart in many other wisdom traditions. However, whether it is Abba Macarius, above, Mullah Nasruddin in the Sufi tradition, the Bal Shem Tov in Chassidic teachings, an unnamed bodhisattva (below), or Jesus teaching that if a person forces you to go a mile with him, you should go two (Matthew 5:41), there are similar subtle teachings in all traditions that go far beyond mere non-attachment, which could (after all) be seen as just another form of appeasement.
-- Gregory Mayers --
("Listen to the Desert," p. 32)
In his book, "Essential Teachings," the Dalai Lama cites "the Twelfth Practice" of the bodhisattva, which states:
"If in the grip of violent desire or cruel necessity, an unfortunate person steals our possessions or incites someone else to steal them, to be full of compassion, to dedicate to this person our body, possessions, and past, present, and future merit, is a practice of the bodhisattva."The guru who is said to have composed this practice, according to the Dalai Lama's account, was said to have run into markedly similar circumstances to those faced by Abba Macarius (above).
The outcome, according to the Dalai Lama was that "(t)he wrongdoers were so astonished at this that their minds were transformed and they became (the guru's) disciples."
Thus, in this telling, the emphasis is not only on non-attachment and non-violence, but also on compassion and non-judgment. In this instance, indeed, the bodhisattva became his brothers' keeper, unsurprisingly, as the bodhisattva's vow is to take continual rebirth until all beings - including those who would harm him or her - become enlightened.
From this perspective, sense is made out of Jesus' admonishments to go the second mile, to turn the other cheek, and to settle quickly with your adversaries, lest you be jailed. All such actions are based not on what is best for one's own interests and salvation, but what is best for one's fellow sufferers. That, in all traditions, is the true nature of compassion.