We hear much about reciprocity these days, particularly regarding the imbalance of trade. So, what does it mean?
Reciprocity is defined as: “Exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, and responding to a positive action with another positive action.”
The problem is, if there is no reciprocity it always leads to a problem, as we see with the current trade disputes.
Does the Bible have anything to say about this concept?
Yes! It is full of this idea that you get back what you give or do, although the word reciprocity is never used. For instance:
The Lord’s prayer says, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). So there is a reciprocal benefit in our forgiving, as we are taught to pray for forgiveness in the same measure as we forgive. This means it is dangerous to our own soul to harbour unforgiveness. Wow!
The Bible also says, “in the same way you judge others, you will be judged” (Matthew 7:2). Here again, if we judge harshly then we can expect to be judged harshly. We dare not take such a risk, we must leave judging to God.
Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over… For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Here again is a reciprocal benefit.
Proverbs 11:24 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Reciprocity.
Galations 6:7-8: “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Reciprocity.
It is a principle. Don’t ask me how it works, but it does.
Jesus said in Luke 9:26, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed.” Reciprocity. I never want to be ashamed of my love for and faith in Jesus.
Finally, in the sermon on the mount Jesus told us to do to others what you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12). This should be the measure of all our actions. Note that Jesus doesn’t tell us to do to others as they do to you. The word would makes all the difference. In treating others as you would have them treat you, not as they are treating you, you are setting yourself up for forgiveness, for blessing, and for closeness with Jesus who also treated us not according to our sins.
Jesus simplified the Ten Commandments down to two easy to understand sentences: Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). These are the two greatest commandments.
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