Monday, December 17, 2012

Another Look At The Golden Rule

Matthew 7:12 (King James Version)

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

We all know that this is the old truth. Similar statements are found in every major religious tradition on earth.

But why?

“Six degrees of separation is the idea that everyone is approximately six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy and popularized by a play written by John Guare.” (Wikipedia) Mathematicians question the veracity of this proposition, but the principle is true. We live in a remarkable interconnected universe. All of us are tied to one another in ways we can’t imagine. Perhaps, we should consider that when we offer loving kindness and compassion to another we just might be giving a gift to ourselves.

There is no way that we can predict how some respectful consideration of another might trigger an unlikely series of events that ends in a miracle. Consider the story of Naaman (2nd Kings Chapter 5). Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army, a highly respected very successful general, but he had leprosy, a horrible incurable death sentence. In his house he had a servant girl, a slave captured in a raid against her people Israel. This young woman told her master that there was a prophet of God living in Samaria who could cure his leprosy. I am sure by that time Naaman had consulted the best doctors in his country, maybe even a fortuneteller or the priests of his religion. He was just desperate enough to listen to a servant.

Not wanting to start a war, Naaman sent a letter to the King of Israel before he went down to meet with Elisha, the prophet of God. The King of Israel was terrified that this request to cure the incurable was a pretext to start a war. He tore his garments in despair, but Elisha told the King send him on down so that he will know there is a prophet in Israel.

When he arrived at the house of Elisha, the prophet did not answer the door. He sent a servant with a message. Naaman was instructed “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

This annoyed the general. He noted that Syria had better rivers than the Jordan. He was about to leave when one of his soldiers counseled him, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

Of course Naaman obeyed the prophet. When he came out of the Jordan River the seventh time he was healed. Three times the mighty general considered the counsel of slaves and servants with the same respect that is normally only given to the wise or the mighty.

The fact is you just don’t know who has that particular piece of information you need to change your life. You don’t know how a chance meeting can trigger a series of events that could result in your blessing. “In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state.” (Wikipedia) Folks we live in just such a nonlinear system.

The Golden Rule is not limited to those who can obviously benefit us or even those we consider below us in this material world. It also applies to the energy vampires, people who have the ability to drive us wild with their peculiarities. There is another old truth that covers this situation that is found in Matthew 5:41, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Before you ask the question, the text doesn’t say 22 miles. Most of the time when confronted with energy vampires, I can’t make it through the first mile, let alone the second mile.

Does this work in real life? When I was looking for a job in research and development back in 1985 I met a woman at a job fair representing my current employer. She was a low ranking personnel functionary who ran the disability program at the laboratory. For a junior design project our team designed and built an all terrain electric wheelchair for a little crippled girl. It was a success. We even made the local TV news. Our professor was happy with us, but I heard the Dean of the Engineering College dismissed us as a bunch of garage mechanics. I used photographs of our device in my pitch to prospective employers. This young woman thought that our project was pretty cool. She bypassed all the normal bureaucratic nonsense required to get a Government job, putting me in immediate contact with the men who actually had the power to hire me. I was given three job offers! Let me add that about six months after starting work at the laboratory I received one of those form letters from our personnel office telling me that while they were amazed with my remarkable abilities and accomplishments they had no openings at this time for someone of my remarkable talents. 27 years later I still have that letter.

Jeff Bezos is the founder, chief executive officer, president and chairman of the board of, a man with an estimated net worth of $20.2 billion dollars. Recently he delivered the commencement address at Princeton University. During most of this 12 minute speech, one of the most powerful men in our country told a story from his childhood. He was an exceptionally bright child with an unusual aptitude for math. He disliked his grandmother’s cigarette smoking, so one day while riding in the car with his grandparents he calculated how many years cigarettes had cut from his grandmother’s life expectancy. When he announced this fact, his grandmother burst into tears. His grandfather pulled the car off the road. The old man stepped out of the car asking his grandson to join him. Jeff did not know if he was going to be praised for his intellectual accomplishment or punished for its effect on his grandmother. His grandfather told him, “Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”

Many years later Jeff Bezos ended a lecture to a group of the most intelligent and academically successful young people with a series of questions. One of these questions was, “Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind.”

Matthew 25:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The concept for this blog post has been shamelessly taken from a sermon by Joel Osteen, America’s preacher and the Princeton commencement address delivered by Jeff Bezos, a man who changed the way the world goes shopping. The links are below.

Joel Osteen’s Gate Keeper Sermon

Jeff Bezos Commencement Address

No comments:

Post a Comment