And he said to them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
It gives us a fresh sense of the greatness of that reformer who makes this answer to see in it how free he was from the infirmities of his class. It is comparatively easy to see that things are wrong, and that they ought to be changed and righted. It is less easy, but still not uncommon, to have the courage that denounces wrong and that rebukes its perpetrators. It is quite another thing to have the practical insight and the patient determination that can discover a remedy for abuses and point the way to its successful application. There are wrongs that have been denounced and then forgotten, as though their denunciation and their repression were identical. And by such a course the moral sense of a community, of a man, becomes dulled, and at length slumbers and is inert. People see that behind the passionate voice there is wanting the guiding hand; that the scream of indignation somehow exhausts the impulse of reform, and that men who are eager in general terms to tell other men what they ought to do are quite powerless often to tell them how to do it. It explains the confidence with which men followed John the Baptist that he not only rebuked their vices, but that he showed them how to forsake them. "What shall we do?" "Do I" Bald John, "do something for your brother-man, Instead of hoarding, spend. Instead of accumulating, give. It is not much to do, but it is a beginning. Get your shrunken heart enlarged a little by making it sensible of the needs of others. Exact no more than that which is appointed. It is a law for all men, and of manifold application. Let us see this morning, as the preacher in the wilderness turns on it the strong, full light of this personal application, what that is which it has to say to us. At the base of every man's consciousness is the sense of his relationship to God. While we are arguing about the existence of such a Being; the deepest convictions of men are more or less candidly owning it as beyond argument. Next to a man's relations to his Maker are his relations to his fellows, and here the personal consciousness is far less certain or clear. What each one of us owes to our neighbour — in what spirit we shall maintain our business or social relations with our fellow-men — what is human brother. hood, and how men shall practically illustrate it — these are questions concerning which many people are in frequent and serious perplexity. If you are a capitalist, and I am a tradesman, or a farmer, or a labourer, the time will almost inevitably come when in one way or another you will have me in your power. You are stronger than I am, like the Hebrew or Roman publicans. You may do with impunity things that I cannot. Above all, owing to my necessities, it may easily be that you have obtained a knowledge of my affairs, which gives you, in our business dealings, an overwhelming advantage. You can "freeze me out" after one fashion or another. You can foreclose on me, if I am a little behind in my interest. We read of men in civic place who, entrusted with the care of the stranger and the immigrant, make them welcome to these shores by robbing, and even ruining them. And our cheeks flush at an infamy so shameless and so inhuman. But here is some imposing personage to whom men bow obsequiously on 'Change, and who finds a hospitable welcome at the tables of eminent Christian citizens, who only differs from the immigrant runner or a boarding-house striker in the bulk and the boldness of his transactions! In essence these are of precisely the same nature, for they are both trading upon the ignorance of the unsuspecting and wringing their profits out of the poverty of the poor and the weakness of the weak. To all such, and to you and me, just in so far as we are tempted by their success to descend to their methods, the gospel speaks in plain and stern rebuke, "Exact no more than that which is appointed you." And no less does it say to that other life which most of us live in homes. Here, as between man and woman, parent and child, master and servant, there is a large field for undue and unwarrantable exactions. How many sweet and gracious relationships, begun in love, and cemented, it may be, by mutual sympathies, have been spoiled at length by a temper which was all the time throwing itself back upon its wifely or husbandly rights, and exacting not only these but more than these with a petulant impatience and peevish and fault-finding querulousness, a harsh imperiousness, which thought only of itself! In every such relation there is one who is stronger and one who is weaker. "I wish," said a father to his son's teacher, "that I could at least persuade my son to treat me like a gentleman." "Suppose," replied the other, "that you try the effect of treating him like a gentleman!" Does it ever occur to some of us that because God has constituted the family as a Divine institution in which the parent is king, it does not follow that our sovereignty is to be an absolute despotism. Few of us are in danger of working seven days in the week. Some of us would be happier if we did a little more work on the remaining six. But this at least we can do — we can protect on Sundays the rights of those who work for us.
(Bishop H. C. Potter.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.