In everything, do unto others what you would have them do unto you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
- Matthew 7:12
If youre worried about the price of gasoline rising a few cents per gallon in this country, take a look at whats happening in Israel. On Jan. 1 the price of gasoline in that Middle-Eastern country rose 5.8 percent. Instead of the $4 a gallon they paid the day before, Israeli drivers now pay $4.23.
Perhaps the increase is due to new taxes. With tourism down considerably since the beginning of the latest Intifada, this may have been an imperative move to boost the Israeli economy. Or, the price change could have been imposed by the supplier - which reminds me of an observation I made while visiting Israel nearly 25 years ago.
One of the first things you notice in that part of the world is the landscape. Its no exaggeration to say that for every blade of grass in our country theres a rock in Israel. When Jesus taught the parable of the man who built his house upon a rock (Matthew 7:24-25) - or told the Apostle Peter, Upon this rock I will build my church (Matthew 16:18) - He was using illustrations His listeners could well understand.
Frequently, during our travels, we would see trucks filled with enormous loads of rocks straining to climb the hilly highways we shared. There was nothing odd about that, I thought, until our guide told us the trucks were heading for Iran, because theres very little rock in Iran.
Iran, Iraq, and other Arab countries may not have an abundance of rock, but its likely they have a gallon of oil for every rock imbedded in the small country of Israel.
Of course, other factors may be involved, and rocks might not be transported as readily from Israel to Iran today. But wouldnt you think those resource-rich countries, on both sides of the eternal conflict between Arabs and Jews, could see the advantage of the barter system? You know, rocks for oil, prosperity for poverty, peace for war?
There was a time in our own nation when judgments werent made according to which state, political party, or section of the country people were from. While the newly independent nation struggled into existence, cotton, lumber, and other raw materials flowed freely from south to north, and manufactured goods came south in return.
Such cooperation was logical and expected. But during that same period America went beyond trading for merely commercial reasons. First as colonies and then as states and municipalities, material goods and financial aid often traveled in just one direction at a time, not because the barter system stopped working, but because one group was in need and the other rushed to their aid.
For example, in 1773 when angry Bostonians dumped 342 chests of over-taxed British tea into Boston Harbor, causing Parliament to revoke the Massachusetts charter and close her port to all trade, Georgians joined other Southern colonists in sending much-needed food and supplies to their stricken countrymen. A little more than 50 years later the giving and receiving would be reversed.
In 1829, nearly a century before the better-known fire of 1916 destroyed 32 blocks in downtown Augusta, and long before insurance companies, government grants, and greater internal resources enhanced her recovery, an inferno devastated the heart of the town. Almost every building within a three-block area between Broad and Greene was destroyed.
Two months later, donations to the stricken city totaled $17,739 - with $2,247 coming from the citizens of Boston, Mass.
When Jesus reminded His followers of the golden rule, He wasnt telling them to give to others so they would be given something in return, but to act as they wished other people would act toward them.
Later Jesus took even this addition a step further: Love your neighbor as yourself, He said, repeating what God had told the Children of Israel centuries before (Leviticus 19:18).
Nor did Jesus stop there. Not only were they to love their neighbors but, He added, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).
From Israel to Iran, North Korea to her Asian neighbors, and Iraq to the world, imagine what this world would be like if there were even an attempt to follow the golden rule.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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