In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
This week, we have seen two areas in which there is a difference between our wants and our needs. One final area Jesus talked about is our dealings with other people. We want people to treat us better than we treat them, but we need to treat others as we would like them to treat us.
I bet you recognize Matthew 7:12: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” What did Jesus mean by that? In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is. He said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (vv. 37-39). Matthew 7:12 is an elaboration of that second commandment, to love others as yourself. We call it the Golden Rule.
Some critics of the Bible say Jesus was just plagiarizing Confucius, Greek philosophers, and other Jewish rabbis. However, those other philosophers framed this sentiment in a negative sense: do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you. It was a passive command. But Jesus turned it into something active: you take the first step and do something kind for another person if you want them to do something kind for you.
Being proactive in doing good to others who have not yet done something good for us–that goes against our instincts, doesn’t it? Psychologist Willard Harley talks about a concept he calls the “Love Bank.” He applies this concept specifically to marriage, but I think it is a good illustration of how we tend to interact with others. We are all like banks, with accounts for every person in our lives. And when we encounter somebody, we check their account status with us: Do they have a credit or a deficit? If they have a positive balance, meaning they have done a lot of good for us, then we react to them in a positive way. But if they have taken more than they have given, then we react in a negative way. We do not owe them any kindness.
That might be how we think, but Jesus said do not be that way. Why? If we are children of God, then God has deposited into our accounts unending riches, beginning with our salvation. We can afford to be generous with other people regardless of how they treat us because of the riches we have received from God.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Straight Talk About Your Needs” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2022.
“The Love Bank,” Marriage Builders, https://www.marriagebuilders.com/the-love-bank.htm.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org