Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Good Deeds and Faith

The business world talks about the platinum rule which is "Treating others as they want to be treated." This is a slight variation of the "Golden Rule." "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the prophets" (Matt. 7:12). God clearly operates on a principle of reciprocity; we must do good to people in advance of their doing good to us, trusting God to reward us later. How we treat others reveals our character. This passage picked up the title "The Golden Rule" from a sermon preached by John Wesley in 1750 A.D. He was making reference to a Christian Roman emperor who over a millennium earlier, allegedly engraved the saying on his wall in gold. We as believers have a moral responsibility to recognize how we ought to treat every other person. When we treat others (such as waitresses, store clerks, the elderly or children) the way people of higher status treated people of lower status in Jesus' day, we invite God's judgment against us. We will not warrant God's mercy should we be insensitive and demean another human being on account of social status. Jewish tradition declares that the sage Hillel, who taught before Jesus did, had a good grasp of this rule as being a summary of the law. The story is told about a Gentile who approached both Hillel and his rival sage, promising each that he would convert to Judaism if the sage could teach him the law concisely. Hillel declared, "Whatever you do not want someone to do to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Law; the rest of it is just explanation." Jesus said "Love God and love your neighbor on these two commandments hang all the law and prophets." Jesus was saying the law simply pointed out violations of love. True servant-hood is revealed when we have the best interest of others in mind. A practical application of this would be avoiding the temptation to negotiate the lowest price for services and goods, but agree to a price that is fair and still honors the vendor for his service or product. The way we judge people will reflect on the way we treat them. However our Lord has a warning. "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Matt 7:2). What is distinctive about the principle as it appears in Matthew is its relation to the day of judgment. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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