I love the “aha!” moments in life. As I was sitting in my office this rainy, Friday morning, putting the finishing touches on this week’s sermon, I had one of those moments. My text this week includes the famed “golden rule” of Jesus found in Matthew 7:12, “In everything, therefore, treat people in the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Being the good Bible student that I am, I determined to find out what the “therefore” was there for. Let’s be honest, when we quote this, we leave out the therefore as we say, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But Jesus precedes it with a therefore. In other words, what He is about to say is the logical conclusion of what He just finished saying. That’s when the “aha!” moment came.
In the preceding verses, Jesus speaks of how God blesses us when all we do is ask of Him. It’s as if Jesus is telling us, “since God has blessed you, you need to bless others.” Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy, describes this type of command as a matter of “spiritual orientation” and he lists, very succinctly, a few other areas that this principle seems to apply. His point is, if we are correctly “oriented” towards God in our spirit, how we treat Him and how He treats us will spill over onto those we relate to in everyday life.
I prefer to call it the “Ministry of Reciprocation.” To reciprocate is, according to Webster, “to give and take mutually.” Here’s the “aha!” How we treat others directly reflects how we treat God. If we love God, we will love others (see I John 4:7-8). In fact God “gives” us love, which we “take” and “give” not only as a return to God, but to others as well.
Check out the other areas this “give-take-give” principle of reciprocation takes place.
Forgiveness- In Matthew 6:14 Jesus tells us, “For if you forgive others (give) … your heavenly Father will also forgive you (God gives, we take).”
Confession- Jesus teaches in Matthew 10:32-33 that “whoever confesses Me before men (give) I will confess him before My Father who is in heaven (a gift we take).” Add to this principle that those who hear our confession that we give publicly and respond to it will be saved (see Romans 10:9-17) we have reciprocation.
Blessing- James takes a different approach (as is so like him). Rather than demonstrate, he points out the absurdity of when we fail to engage in the ministry of reciprocation. In James 3:8-12 he describes how with one tongue we bless God and curse men. He compares this to the same bizarre behavior of a fig tree growing olives or a grapevine growing figs (v. 12) and rightly sums up God’s opinion in v. 10- “My brothers, these things ought not be this way.”
So what does all this mean? It means if we fail to “reciprocate” God’s actions toward us, not only back to Him, but unto others as well, we reveal how close (or far apart) we are in our relationship with God. A failure to love people means we are falling short in our love to God. A failure to forgive reflects that we feel unforgiven in our hearts. Cursing people but blessing God reveals a duplicity that shows what we offer God is nothing more than “lip service” and is not a genuine, heartfelt response to His goodness.
So how is your walk with God? Perhaps I should ask, how are you relating to people? The two are linked. The golden rule is much more than a rule; it is an indicator of our relationship with our Maker. So go. Do unto others, and remember, what you do reveals your standing with God.