Planks and Pleas – for One Another
The “Golden Rule” from Matthew 7:12 is familiar to many of us. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Despite this familiarity it was only this morning that I noticed how this sentence is a summary of a preceding line of thought. The word “so” or “therefore” at the beginning of vs 12 (which doesn’t appear in all English translations) means that the Golden Rule does not stand on its own but is weaving together the threads of what has come before.
The chapter begins with Jesus’ admonition that we should not judge blindly. There is a way of judging that brings condemnation on us, namely trying to remove the speck in our brother’s eye without first taking the plank out of our own. Without the humility and grace that comes from first taking the log out of our own eye, we cannot see clearly to help our brother. Tying this to the “therefore” of vs 12 we find an example of something we would not want done to us – eye surgery by a plank-eyed doctor – and so we should not do it to others.
Jesus moves next to invite persistent prayer for good things from the Father’s hand. We can ask and seek and knock in the confidence that if we, evil parents by comparison, know how to bless our children, how much more will our perfect heavenly Father give good things when His children ask. This is usually where I lose my “brother” focus and apply this invitation in a purely personal way. But Jesus challenges that self-focus by moving in the next breath to say “therefore, what you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” In other words, this paragraph too is about the way I relate to others.
The link is found in noticing the way the word “brothers” in 7:3, 4 and 5 becomes “sons” in 7:9. Since we share the same Father His sons are my brothers. Recognizing this filial connection opens a way for me to embrace the “one another” aspect of this prayer. Because I want to receive good gifts from my Father, and because these good gifts come as answers to prayer, I should pray these kinds of prayers for my brothers! I wish others would present my needs before the Father so that they are met. I, therefore, should readily do the same for His other sons.
So in these two ways at least may we grow in the Golden Rule – judging our brothers only with tear-filled, plank-free eyes; and offering pleas to our good Father on behalf of His sons. Plank-less and Plea-filled, for one another!