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Friday, October 21, 2011

The Golden Rule

We all know this one. Even the world knows this one. "Don't do to others what you don't want others to do to you." Easy. We get it. And, as is often the case, we missed it.

Jesus didn't express the negative. We will generally quote it right -- "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" -- but we still tend to think of it in the negative. "How would you like it if someone did that to you?" Jesus spoke in the positive. The things you like done to you are the things you should do to others. In fact, when you think about this, it can get really, really big.

Try an example. "You know, when I'm in financial trouble, I'd really like it if someone would help me out." This doesn't start with "them". It starts with "as you would have them do unto you." What would I like done to me? Now, look around. Does someone need that from me? And the reason this gets so big is because it is so overwhelming. This Golden Rule can, in fact, become too big to handle.

Which brings me to my next point. We missed it ... again. Jesus didn't give this statement in a vacuum. The verse, in fact, begins with a "therefore". "Therefore whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matt 7:12). He predicates this concept on what went before. So ... what went before?
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?" (Matt 7:7-11).
Did you know that? This famous "Ask and it will be given to you ..." passage is the premise of the Golden Rule. How does that make sense? Well, if I'm going to be expected to do for others what I would like them to do for me, taxing my own limited resources of energy, money, emotions, time, etc., it will require an act of God, truth be told. For me to obey this command, I will need direct intervention from God to supply what is needed through me for those who I am treating in the way I would like to be treated. And now that makes some sense.

I'd like to point out that it also reads backwards. We often yank "ask" and "knock" and "seek" out of context and just see it as a warm promise from God that if we pursue it, He'll give it to us. Prosperity folks see this as a divine promise to get what you want from God. First, notice it doesn't say that. Ask and you will receive. It doesn't say what. None of the statements do. But my main point is that there is a purpose to all this effort of asking, knocking, and seeking. The end product about which we are to be doing all this is to fulfill the Golden Rule. God knows how to give us good things so that we can do to others what we would like them to do to us. It's not a "for me" thing; it's about "them".

So, ask, knock, seek! Do it! You have the promise that our good Father will give us good gifts. Those good gifts are for giving to others. It's a win-win! But let's not miss that it is to do good rather than to merely avoid treating others in ways we wouldn't want to be treated, and the things we are asking for are to assist us in doing the good works He has designed for us. Let's not lose sight of that.

1 comment:

Miklós said...

Very much so. As the main message of the Samaritan's parable is that it is not the question who is my brother, but whom am I a brother to, this is really so as you have put it. We are to be channels of God's love, not focusing on not doing anything wrong as the idle guy of one talent, but use our talents actively to be brothers to others.