SERMON ON THE GOLDEN RULE, Luke 6: 31-36 Sunday, October 3, 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today, in St. Luke’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples, and us, about the virtues. St. John Chrysostom says that God implanted in all human beings a natural law which enables us to distinguish between what is virtue and what is vice, what is good and what is bad. Of course, we acknowledge that the holier a person is, the clearer the distinction is, and the more sinful a person is, the murkier the distinction becomes. The gift of God is weakened by sin, but it is strengthened by virtue. That being said, this precious gift of discernment, this still, small voice of God in the conscience, tells us (if we can hear it!) that if we expect other people to treat us well, that we should first treat them well. Again, St. John Chrysostom says, “It is manifest then that Christ has commanded nothing that is impossible for you to do, especially that which He had long before implanted in your conscience, so that your own will is the law to you. And if you want to have good done to you, you must do good to others; if you want others to show mercy to you, you must show mercy to your neighbor.”
The words make it sound easy, but the Lord Jesus shows us that it’s not as easy as it sounds. He says, “For if you love those that love you, what credit is that you? Even the worst sinners love those that love them. And if you only do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that you? for even the worst sinners do that!”
St John Chrysostom says (I’m paraphrasing), “It’s as if Jesus said, ‘I want you to be better than sinners! I don’t want you just to love your family and friends! Anybody can love and do good to those who love and do good to them! I want something more, something extraordinary from you! I want you to love even your enemies!’” And a bit later on Chrysostom says, “There are indeed several causes which produce love; but spiritual love exceeds them all. For nothing earthly generates it, neither gain, nor kindness, nor nature, nor time, but it descends from heaven.”
Next, the Lord Jesus kicks these virtues of love and goodness up even another notch. What if these virtues began to reach into your pocket or purse? Jesus said,
“And if you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, what thank have you? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”
Did you know, that when Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” He was talking about money? It’s true. He was talking about almsgiving. In these last three verses of this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus is also talking about money. In the first two verses He’s talking about lending. Love and goodness also extends to lending money. If someone asks to borrow from us, (and we are in a position to do so,) and we feel confident about the borrower, we should lend. This is different from almsgiving. This is not giving, this is lending. But what Jesus forbids is the charging of usury (interest). Why? Lending is a virtue of love and goodness, but usury means we’ve lost any spiritual benefit because we are benefitting ourselves, at the borrower’s expense. St. Gregory of Nyssa says,
“A person should flee from that toxic anxiety which causes him to seek from the poor man an increase of his own money and gold, exacting a profit..Hence He (the Lord) adds, ‘Lend, hoping for nothing again.’ If a man should call the harsh calculation of interest, ‘theft,’ or ‘homicide,’ he would not be wrong.”
St John Chrysostom praises the virtue of pious lending very highly when he says, “Observe the wonderful nature of lending; one receives (much-needed help), and another secures for himself freedom from his own debts, giving an hundred fold at the present time, and for the future - eternal life!”
So, what have we learned from the Lord Jesus Christ today? First: Treat everyone, and He means everyone, like you would like to be treated yourself – whether they deserve it or not! Second: Love and do good to everyone, even your enemies! Third: If you can, lend to those that ask. Lending is a great virtue and brings with it much grace for salvation, but never, ever, ask for interest. To Him Who gives us commandments for our salvation Christ our God, together with His Father Who is without beginning, and the All-Holy Spirit, be praise, glory, and honor, always now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.