Sunday, July 02, 2017

Do Ut Des and Christian Teaching

We had a lesson today that emphasized volunteering in Jehovah's service. As we studied the WT lesson, these words came to mind--words addressed to the Messianic King: "Your people will offer themselves willingly in the day of your military force" (Psalm 110:3-NWT 2013). What is the day of his military force? In what sense do his people offer themselves willingly? Moreover, we learned that Jesus taught the importance of giving without expecting repayment from humans (Luke 14:13-14). This lead me to think about the Roman concept: "Do ut des."

The expression can be translated: "I give in order that you may give." The Latin turn of phrase is properly applied to Roman religion, which was divided into public and private piety (pietas). Public or state religion usually was conducted as a business transaction between God (gods) and the individual worshiper. This form of pietas advances human self-interest: it evidently promotes a quid pro quo mindset.

In contrast, Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics 10.6-7) argues that some acts are ends-in-themselves (teloi). That is, we participate in some actions without entertaining any hope of reciprocation—we give without expectation of receiving. Turning back to Scripture, one finds that the Pater Noster teaches followers of Christ about the preeminence of serving God as an end-in-itself (Matthew 6:9-13). The hallowing of God's name and His kingdom transcends human needs like daily bread or the forgiveness of sins although these concerns are important too. The humbling of self while honoring God and serving others are important lessons we learn from the Pater Noster. Biblical religion appears to eschew the familiar early attitude--"Do ut Des." See Jesus' famed Sermon on the Mount.

See Merold Westphal, God, Guilt, and Death.

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