Saturday, December 17, 2005

It’s that #^*% Golden Rule, Part I

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. ~ Matthew 7:12

Do to others as you would have them do to you. ~Luke 6:31

I think that the Golden Rule was the first Christian teaching that I ever learned. Of course, the Golden Rule is not limited to Christianity alone. In its negative form—“Do not do to others what you would not like done to yourselves”—it is found in the 2nd-century documents Didachē and the Apology of Aristides. Its negative form is also to be found in Tobit, in the writings of the two eminent Jewish teachers, Hillel (1st century BC) and Philo of Alexandria (1st centuries BC and AD) and in the Analects of Confucius (6th and 5th centuries BC). It also appears, in one form or another, in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates, and Seneca.

I believe that its appearance in the so many works indicates its significance and substance. I also believe that the Golden Rule is one of the most difficult of all wise and good imperatives that one may attempt to follow. For example, I have noticed that often it is confused with a quid pro quo situation—“I’ll do this for you and you do that for me.” From a theological perspective, I am certain that is not the intent of “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Moreover, as I once heard a very wise woman say, the Gold Rule would be more beneficial if it were states as “Do to others as they would have you do to them.” That makes sense to me because I know so many people who want me—or others—to be exactly like them. If they were to do to me as they would want me to do to them, I might be very unhappy!

For example, as we were cleaning my house yesterday, I came upon several things that I needed to get dispose of. Among those were some books that I have read but do not plan to read or refer to again. I picked up a couple and was about to offer them to Tiffany when I remembered those wise words, “Do to others as they would have you do to them.” So before I handed them to her, I asked if she liked to read. Her response was a simple, “No.” I know that I would have appreciated receiving some books, but I am not Tiffany. What I did offer to her—and which she accepted—was a small, inexpensive clock radio that I used once when I was on retreat at a location that had no alarm clocks and a telephone that I no longer use because it is powered only by batteries. I believe that she appreciated the clock and the telephone; I do not that she would have appreciated the books.

I told you all of that so that I could get to a personal concern that I dredged up out of my pres-conscious mind in my morning contemplation. Since I was about eight years old, I have tried—not always successfully—to live by the Golden Rule. I often put myself into other people’s shoes. I picture how I would feel—and what I would need—if I were they. Remembering the Cheyenne proverb, “Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins,” I try not to judge their situation or place blame for whom and where they are. As with attempting to live the Golden Rule, I am often unsuccessful in doing this, too. Still, if I perceive the need of another that I can satisfy or if someone asks me for help, I do my best to say “yes” rather than “no.”

It seems to me that people have never understood my doing this. For the most part, I believe that is because they become alarmed at the thought of taking risks where others are concerned. Or, perhaps, they don’t even see other people or their needs. Or, maybe they are just afraid:

Adrift, abandoned cargo
of a civilization that races headlong
on success’ interstate.

Dirty clothes, dirty body,
unlike you who speed by,
I have no bathroom,
not to mention a home of my own.

I’m your rent-a-family member,
part of your Christmas gift family
or a Thanksgiving meal relative:
those special times when you recall my plight.

But today is an ordinary day,
the more habitual occasion
when I’m the forgotten one.

Then Gospel Mission kitchen preachers said
that Jesus had nowhere to lay his head,
but he wore a real live halo
and rested in its light.

I’ve got no halo,
and a packing crate
or a dirty doorway’s
the place I call home.

You’re afraid of me
and avoid my glance,
fearful that my arm will extend with a “please”
to become a panhandle.

And I’m also afraid, I constantly live in fear
of freezing to death,
of being beaten or killed,
by some half-crazed alley hunter.

Look kindly on me, for I am a ragged refugee,
a wanderer in the exodus of economic,
a hungry, hunted homeless hobo,
a cousin of Jesus
with nowhere to lay my head.

To Be Continued


  1. Shouting out a big "Amen" back atcha on this one!

  2. I echo Brighton’s “amen!”

    My daughter and I were once homeless. We were abandoned by my ex-husband in a city far away from my family. We had no money and no place to live. If it had not been for a man and woman who followed the Golden Rule, took us into their home, and helped up return to where my family lives, I do not know what would have happened to us.

    The psalm by Edward Hays speaks great truths.

    Thank you—and AMEN.

  3. ex-Louisville Guy Retired in TucsonSunday, December 18, 2005 2:18:00 AM

    Very good! May I borrow some of that for a sermon?

  4. As you know, I have taken into my home one whom you have taken into your home. Our motivations may have been different, but out problems were the same.


  6. Brighton: Yes, Amen! If we keep this amening up, I’m going to begin thinking of myself as a Baptist!

    Abbey: Thank you for sharing your story. I really do like the writing of Edward Hays.

    Ex-Louisville Guy: Certainly, Jim, borrow all that you want! I copywrite nothing.

    Chica: You’re most welcome, Tiffany. And thank you for all that you have done for me and my house!