If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:11 (NIV)
If you read the words of Jesus too fast, they seem to be full of non sequiturs. That word “so,” sometimes translated as “therefore,” keeps popping up in the oddest places. Look at the Golden Rule, Matthew 7:12:
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (NIV)
“So”? Context is everything. Immediately before this, Jesus was speaking of how, just as parents give good things to their children who ask, God will do the same to His followers who ask. So, the Golden Rule is about imitating a human parent’s acts of love toward a child, or God’s acts of love toward His adopted children.
Read the Golden Rule out of context, and it can come off as an implied quid pro quo. You want other people to be nice to you, be nice to them. But in a parent-child relationship, chances are the child brings nothing tangible that the parent needs. And yet, the parent gives with no guarantee of anything in return, only the hope of the child’s continued love and obedience.
So it is with us and God. We bring nothing that He needs, yet he gives, and He desires our love and obedience.
So do to others what you would have them do to you – not as a fair trade by the world’s reckoning, but even if they or you have nothing to give in return. Treat each need you meet as the need of a helpless child who may never repay you. Then you’ll be golden.