patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Thursday, April 4, 2013

you get what you give

Continuing on in Jesus’ interminable mountainside sermon, this morning I read, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2 NIV). Or, put more succinctly, you get what you give.

Thinking I’d invented a pithy aphorism, I googled it, but, alas, “you get what you give” was one of “About 3,280,000,000 results” in “0.25 seconds” of searching. Most of the results seemed to be references to a cheesy 1990s song by the New Radicals, a probably cheesier Glee rendition of it (apologies to my daughter Lulu, who’s a secret fan of Glee), and a 2010 Zac Brown album that didn’t appear to have a song by that name in it. So much, in any case, for originality.

Jesus’ comment is basically the upshot of the Golden Rule: Do to others what you’d have them to do you, ’cause, if you don’t, all the bad stuff you did to them is going to be done to you.

One might read this as a curse, a punishment, but it occurred to me as I was thinking about it that maybe it’s more of an existential rule, one of those invisible traits of God Paul says that everyone can see God’s creation. One gets one’s comeuppance.

In my experience, in any case, this is surely so. I once, with the blithe cruelty of a ninth grader, asked this girl Elaine why her arms were so hairy, and within weeks I’d grown a dark pelt on my own arms. A coincidence of our adolescence, perhaps. For me, though, it was clearly the result of my own judgmentalness. If you're mean to people, people are mean to you. If you let your bad mood stink up the room for everyone else, they get in bad moods too and you suffer their stink wherever you go. &c.

So, Jesus' pronouncement upon judging others is like a those first curses of scripture, for me: not so much a punishment as the natural consequencs of being out of sync with God’s way of doing things. Eating poisonous fruit leads to pain and death. Passing your own bad decisions on to others wrecks your relationships with them. That’s just how things work.