Rule #8 for Rightly Understanding the Ten Commandments
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Question 99 of the Larger Catechism, asks, "What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?" In its answer the Catechism gives eight rules. Here is the eighth one: "For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed: 8. That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them." Last week we noticed how the commandments require us to consider the obedience of others. This week we look at how we must also come alongside and help them.
When I was a boy whenever we were not in school, the kids in my neighborhood were outside playing. We would play whiffle ball in the High School parking lot, kickball in Mrs. Smittle's yard, football in Mrs. Taylor's, hide-n-seek and overball in Deluca's, and go sled riding down at Flick's. My buddy Richie and I would go from one activity to the next, from the time we got off the bus until dark. That was until Richie got an afternoon paper route. Then I had to wait until he finished his route before we could play. However, in order to speed up the process, I would help Richie fold and gum-band his papers, and assist him in delivering them. That way we could get to playing faster.
Now it's true that I had a vested interest in helping Richie with his paper route, nevertheless, it is still a good example of how we are required to help others obey the things that are commanded exclusively to them "according to our places and callings." Richie, and not I, was responsible to complete the paper route every day. Yet, I was happy to help him in his duty, partly because of my desire to play sooner rather than later, but also partly because I would rather work with my friend than play alone. I was able to help Richie because of my place and calling. At that time I did not yet have my own paper route, and so I was not neglecting my own duty in helping my friend with his. Also, I was able and willing to do my part of my friend's route exactly the way he was required to do it. Some papers had to be put in a magazine rack, some inside the door, etc. I did it the way he told me to do it, for it was not my place to figure out a "better" way. It was his work, and I wanted to truly help him because of our friendship.
Similarly, we can and should seek to help others with the duty that God requires of them, even when that same duty is not required of us. Thus, if you are a single woman and have a married woman for a friend, even though it is not your duty to raise her children, yet because of the obligation of love, you are required to help her when she desires it, and when you can do so without neglecting your own duties. Moreover, when you are with her, you ought to heed those things that are forbidden exclusively to her. So for example, if she needs to come home from shopping at three o'clock, you should be willing to submit to that curfew with her. You may be able to spend the afternoon at the mall, but your married friend has a duty to prepare supper for her family. Love requires that you help her to refrain from what is forbidden to her.
Furthermore, "helping" others is never being intrusive or nosey. If people decline your help when you offer it then you ought not to push the issue. It is not right for you to forcibly "share" in another's responsibility, or to do something differently from what they have asked. If we are truly interested in "helping," we will humbly serve according to the wishes of the person we are seeking to help. Otherwise we are not helping or being a servant; we are dictating and making the other person our servant. You can certainly suggest an alternative if you believe your friend would benefit from it, but if he declines your suggestion, you must immediately and cheerfully do it his way; for if you are only willing to help when everything is done your way, then you really are not looking to be helpful at all. So, consider how you can help others meet their responsibilities, when they desire it and when you are ready to be a servant and truly assist and not proudly and selfishly dictate correction. If you love the person you are helping, you will find it easy to take the role of a humble servant; for your motive will not be to show him how superior you are, but to truly assist him in meeting his responsibilities, so that he can finish his work and the two of you can get to that kickball game!