Living by Higher Standards

It is easy to keep away from being a murderer; for it is the most difficult thing to take away another person’s life. But it is so easy and hard to avoid from killing other people little by little. Every time I cut off someone with a sarcastic remark, I kill him a little bit. I do the same thing every time I insult or offend or abuse another person. I slowly snuff out the joy of life in them. I may be a worse offender for I slowly kill the spirit.

It is easy not to be a thief or an embezzler; for it goes against what I feel is right and just. But I often take away small things that should otherwise belong to other people. When I take more than I need or keep more than I require, I am denying these from people who are in want and misery. Anything I keep in excess belongs to others.

It is easy to avoid committing slander and calumny against others; for such big lies leave an awful taste in the mouth and unsettle the spirit. But I often engage in gossip and idle talk which slowly chip away at the character and reputation of other people.

The commandments are a minimum standard of behavior. Christ asks me to go beyond these minimum standards.  I love others not because of what I can get in return. I do acts of love to recognize and reciprocate the love that has been first given to me by a loving God. I do good not to avoid punishment. I do good to honor the goodness that is in every person I meet. I tell the truth to respect the truth that is in every human person. I do good because I came from God who is all good.

If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
~ Psalm 130
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you, 
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Matthew 5:20-26

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