“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

Grabbing the Initiative

I learned my first New Testament verse of scripture, from memory, when I was in elementary school.
To many of you, this may not be a very fascinating tidbit. I imagine it is a fairly common occurrence among those raised in the Christian faith.

But those who know me better perhaps find this fact rather perplexing. I was, after all, raised in the Jewish faith, not the Christian one. Memorizing the words of Jesus was not exactly on my, or my parents', list of productive ways to spend time.

Of course, the fact that I didn't even know it was a Bible verse probably had something to do with it.

You may have already guessed what this particular verse is (or maybe not!). But it's probably the best known verse in the whole Bible. Matthew 7:12, also known as "the golden rule."
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (translation I learned - beats me whose it is!)
It wasn't for a good 20 years that I found out those were the words of Jesus. Made me wonder why my parents didn't get upset when I said it (just like I STILL wonder, to this day, why they encouraged me to read "The Chronicles of Narnia" - though, of course, I missed every bit of Christian analogy in the whole thing!)

I think a lot of people try to live by the golden rule (and not "whoever has the gold makes the rules!") whether they are Christians or not. At least among some, treating others as you'd like to be treated is a good "word to live by."

That is exactly how I have "interpreted" that verse since I first heard it before I'd even reached double digits in age. The other day, however, I was able to look at it with new eyes, thanks to the Bible version I was reading from.
Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get. Matthew 7:12 The Message
Maybe it's just me, but by reading through this particular paraphrase, the golden rule takes on a different and new life to me. It becomes active. Proactive. It's not just a matter of being as nice to people as you would like them to be to you. It's about thinking about your own needs and wants, and then, out of love, meeting them FOR OTHERS--even if you don't have those requirements or desires met yourself.

In practical terms, it's giving your bratty little brother the last brownie on the plate, no matter how much you love chocolate. It's dreaming of winning the race, then slowing down to help someone who fell so he can win. It's providing compassion and grace for those you long to receive it from, without expecting reward. It's purposefully, deliberately aiming to put others' desires before your own, even (and perhaps especially) if it means yours will be denied or delayed. It is exactly what Christ did for us.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippans 2:3-8 NIV
Jesus healed others, but did not heal himself. He grabbed the initiative and met the needs of others before his own. And that is what He wants us to do.

Are you--am I--being proactive about the golden rule? Are we capturing the initiative and meeting the needs of others, no matter the price to us? Allow God to help you to do this.

Heavenly Father, thank You for using the Message to see this passage I have known most of my life with new eyes. Lord, so often I put my needs first, and while I do try to treat others kindly, I generally use my "leftovers" to do so. Help me, Lord, to give my firstfruits to others, to grab the initiative and treat others exactly as I wish to be treated, even if it means they "get" more than I do. Help me, Dear God, to truly esteem others better than, and before, myself. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen


  1. Thank you for this. You have a unique way
    of saying things. Sunny

  2. This is a new spin on this that I haven't heard before, but it's so in keeping with the word of God that we put others before ourselves.

    Thank you for sharing.


  3. Great message, Joanne! I forget to read 'The Message,' but it really does have an amazing way putting Scripture in a different light, while maintaining the integrity of what it says. Thanks for sharing this with us. Blessings!

  4. That really sheds new light on it and deepens it. And yes, you really caught me when you said you'd learned a NT verse as a little girl! (but I did guess the verse. LoL)

  5. Great stuff, Jo. even for those of us raised in the church, we would learn verses and not understand the bigger picture of them until later. That's why it's so important to plant the Word in our hearts and to keep Christian virtue an essential in our world. Love it!

  6. This is really excellent, Joanne! It's something we all need to keep in front of us, in a sense, as we go about living life in His name. It's so easy to choose easy and self and practical above serving. God help us make the hard choices!

  7. And I say the 'golden rule' to my grand kids often! Now I'm going to rethink and rephrase when and how I say it! Thanks for putting a whole new spin on it - or giving us the 'spin' it should be!

  8. I tell you it never ceases to amaze me how the same words can hold such different meaning each time we read them. Thanks for sharing the fresh perspective on a familiar passage and encouraging me to "grab the initiative" Awesome stuff!

  9. Oh wow...

    How convicting is this? Being proactive, taking the initiative, unselfishness that is outgoing instead of passive?

    Lord, that's gonna take a miracle for me...

    Thanks for this incredibly convicting look at Scripture this morning.

  10. Don't you just LOVE The Message? This is a command I've followed all of my life as well, but recently I'm having a harder time doing it. Thanks for this timely post.


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