Another Word….by Gus Keiser

August 21, 2017

In everything do to others as you would have then do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

                                                                                                                       Matthew 7:12

 There it is in black and white, the sound advice of what we’ve come to call The Golden Rule. It has to be one of Jesus’ most famous teachings, right next to “Love one another as I have loved you.” It’s a teaching that’s echoed in every religious tradition, and in every culture.  It’s short, sweet, simple, and to the point.  It invites us to a life of altruism…doing the right thing by and for others because, simply, it’s the right thing to do.  But it continues to be under assault in today’s culture.

Someone once modified its words to fit his own particular situation when he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you…only do it first”! And then there’s this crass challenge that is echoed throughout our modern, selfish society… “The Golden Rule means that those with the most gold make the rules,” and, for the most part, that’s true.  A high percentage of those serving in public office are quite wealthy.  Perhaps it’s because wealth has given them the means and the time to do all it takes to run and serve.  We can only hope that they’re driven by a vision for the common good.  However, in some cases, these wealthy folk find themselves caught up in a self-perpetuating system of self-advancement and class protection.

A more subtle, yet quietly pervasive, assault on this idea of Jesus comes cloaked in the writings and philosophy of the early twentieth century philosopher, Ayn Rand. In one of her philosophical writings she argues that the kind of altruistic behavior demanded by the Golden Rule is the problem, not the solution, for many of the ills which befall us.  She writes: The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves.  The relationship produces nothing but mutual corruption.  It is impossible in concept.  The nearest approach to it in reality…the man who lives to serve others…is the slave.  If physical slavery is repulsive, how much more repulsive is the concept of servility of the spirit?  The conquered slave has a vestige of honor.  He has the merit of having resisted and of considering his condition evil.  But the man who enslaves himself voluntarily in the name of love is the basest of creatures.  He degrades the dignity of man, and he degrades the conception of love.  But that is the essence of altruism.”

Rand’s vision of rugged individualism, every person out for themselves, flies squarely in the face of the words of Jesus. Her philosophy undergirds a way of seeing the world that divides people into “makers” and “takers”, sees those who benefit from public subsidies as “parasites”, and opposes anything that would limit the freedom of people to live out of anything but their own rational self-interest.

Jesus followed his summary of the teachings of faith…”Do unto others as you would have then do unto you”…with a metaphor of divergent gates…a narrow, hard way, and a broad, easy way.  It is very clear that his intention is to help us see that the Jesus way of being is the hard, narrow way.  The hard way is the best way…but it’s probably not going to get too many folks elected.

Understanding God… thank you for your words which challenge us in our selfishness and complacency. Thank you for guiding our lives of compassion and self-giving as we attempt to follow in your footsteps.  Yours is a hard path and yet, trusting in you, that we will be able to do those hard things.  Amen.

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