The Test of the Golden Rule

The Test of The Golden Rule

Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Jesus (Luke 6:31) 

Yesterday my daughter dropped her wallet in a Target parking lot at midday while trying to load her purchases and two little girls into her car.  By the time she had returned home, realized it was missing, retraced her steps, talked to Target security, had them verify from their cameras she placed it in her coat pocket at check out, and finally called her credit card company, whoever found the wallet already had two charges on her card, including pumping $75 worth of gasoline into the behemoth they had to be driving.

People who have no sensitivity to the Golden Rule, i.e. can’t put themselves in the shoes of someone who loses a wallet and have the common courtesy to seek to find its rightful owner, really baffle me.  Now I’ll admit my initial reaction to hearing about this person without a conscience really made me mad.  Ironically it triggered something in me that caused me to violate a golden teaching of Jesus myself by cursing that person rather than blessing them.  (Matthew 5:44) It is true that the anger of man seldom produces the righteousness of God and it always amazes me how quickly one can become a Pharisee. (James 1:20)

I am genuinely puzzled however as to what kind of person would have such a disregard for the Golden Rule.  Most commonly defined as “doing to others as you would have them do to you” and epitomized by Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” the so called Golden Rule is not just unique to Judeo-Christian teaching.  It is a bedrock ethic of human relationship that is found in every other world religion including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism.

Who is this person and where could they possibly be from?  Sadly they must not have had a mamma who instilled some moral values in them and taught them right from wrong?  And if they did, it’s even sadder to think they are breaking their mamma’s heart right now.  I don’t think they could have grown up in a small town.  For the most part honesty and neighborly values permeate rural communities.   Lyrics from the country song “Where I Come From” tout those enviable benefits of growing up in a little town. “See that door right there, man, I swear that it ain’t never been locked and I guarantee that it never will.”

So, that means our thief, somehow devoid of a religious conscience or moral rectitude, likely grew up in a dog-eat-dog neighborhood of a large city.  It’s possible.  Maybe they have been ripped off so many times themselves that they feel the world owes them a living.  Perhaps, to complicate matters, they have fallen on hard times.  Is all of that reason enough however to victimize a complete stranger?  It is puzzling.

Another scenario could be that they are living under the curse of some self inflicted addiction.  Maybe their midday stupor or desperation for another fix convinced them the wallet was a fortuitous gift enabling them move on to their next appointment with the Devil.  Who knows?

One would think that at a minimum, at least the Silver Rule would apply – “One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.”  I’ve heard even irreligious people talk with some reverence about good karma and bad karma or make reference to the old saying “what goes around comes around.”  But I guess, bottom line, when someone is without a conscious or driven by desperation, all reason goes out the window.

Maybe our thief is a teenager, captivated by the foolishness of youth, when rational thought is at a premium, and on a lark they just decided to set out on a spending spree.  Could be, now that seems possible although what teenager would be caught driving something that is so big it takes $75 to fill the gas tank?

Ultimately I’ve realized that my ruminations of who this person is or where they come from are exercises in futility unless I adhere to the Golden Rule myself.  One of the biggest tests in applying the Golden Rule is when it must be directed toward those who break it. 

The test of the Golden Rule is in how a person chooses to apply it.  The rule was given as a measure of one’s own life rather than to measure the life of another.  Whenever we point the finger at Golden Rule breakers there are three fingers pointing back at us.  And that means we must seek to treat them the way we would like to be treated if we were them.

Truth be told, no one, including myself is guiltless of unkind and mean spirited actions at one time or another.  In those situations I would want prayer for a revelation of God’s love that would lead me to repentance.  I would want mercy extended to me in my brokenness.  And I would want God to change my heart and offer me His hope for a better life.  I would want to discover God’s blessings and be delivered from every curse.

Watch out, Golden Rule breakers in your life just might be a test to stretch you in applying the Golden Rule to yourself!

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