Romans 12:17
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody.
An Honest ManRomans 12:17
Getting an Honest LivingT. R. Stevenson.Romans 12:17
Honourable DealingThe Christian, Boston, U.S.ARomans 12:17
Non-RetaliationBp. Beveridge.Romans 12:17
Providing Things Honest in the Sight of All MenJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 12:17
RetaliationJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 12:17
Still Another TripletAlexander MaclarenRomans 12:17
Christian LoveT.F. Lockyer Romans 12:9-21
Christian SocialismR.M. Edgar Romans 12:9-21
The Christian's Duty to His Fellow-MenC.H. Irwin Romans 12:9-21

The two clauses of this verse remind us of the two main emotions of the human breast, of their diverse nature, and their common association. Sorrow ever treads at the heels of joy. The sigh and the laugh may be heard at once. Scarce has prosperity brightened one threshold than adversity overshadows another. As in the plagues, there is light in Goshen and darkness in Egypt. If every house were painted to reveal the condition of the inmates, what startling contrasts would be seen side by side! It is of little use to try and measure the sum of happiness and of misery, to calculate which preponderates in life; better is it to adapt ourselves to these two prevailing states, and by appropriate words and deeds to evince our sympathy both with those who mourn and those who exult, not shrinking from distress nor envying the fortunate. Many reasons concur in recommending the apostle's injunction.

I. GOD HAS MADE MAN A SOCIAL BEING. He is the "God of the families of Israel." The Law commanded convocations, social observances; the people encamped not as individuals, but as households and tribes. Besides the appetites and affections that concern ourselves personally, there are others which respect our fellows and cannot be gratified without their presence. Love, gratitude, pity, all suppose their existent objects, so that the moral constitution of man exhibits the social capacities with which he has been endowed. There is a basis for sympathy in our physical nature. The appearance of one man acts and reacts on his companions. The mirthful induces merriment in the company, and the entrance of a gloomy countenance damps the spirits of a whole party. Infants are quickly affected by the attitude of those near them; and the lower animals are prone to frisk and leap when their masters are glad, and to be depressed by their melancholy. To shut one's self up in solitude, to take no notice of the circumstances of others, is therefore to sin against the laws of our being.

II. JESUS CHRIST HAS PROVIDED FOR THESE SOCIAL INSTINCTS IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF HIS CHURCH. He has instituted a community of believers, united for mutual counsel and support. One by one we resort to the Saviour for individual teaching and healing, but "those that are being saved" are "added to the Church," and the visibility of the fact assists in that redemption from selfishness which is the essence of sin. "Bear ye one another's burdens" is the recognition of our unity. The limb which shares not in the thrill of pain or pleasure is on the way to atrophy, disunion, death. Love and service to the Head of the body bind the members together as an organism, and love ministers to trouble and enhances joy. Such sympathy cannot, however, be restricted to the members of the Church. Family ties lead to efforts for the salvation of outsiders, and a desire for the glory of the Lord and the enlarging usefulness of his kingdom prompts to imitation of his beneficence who came to lighten our woes and to augment our gladness.

III. OUR DEVELOPMENT UNTO PERFECTION DEMANDS THE CULTIVATION OF SYMPATHY. It was not "good" for Adam to be alone. A high pitch of civilization cannot be reached or maintained in isolation. Left to ourselves, we grow careless of refinement or progress. To shut ourselves up like flowers that close their petals at the rude blast, to crawl inside our shell, and, closing the aperture, to dwell simply on our own satisfactions and uneasinesses, is the pleading of mistaken self-love that overreaches itself and misses the pure happiness of sharing others' delights and of doing good. Spiritual growth is not attainable any more than physical strength by a life within-doors. Avoid the heat and the icy wind, and health suffers by too-great confinement. What lessons may be learnt from the successes and misfortunes of our neighbours! Their lot may be ours soon; it were well to be wise betimes. To look on others is to gaze at a mirror that reflects our own image.

IV. THE FULFILMENT OF THIS PRECEPT WOULD MATERIALLY LIGHTEN THE WRETCHEDNESS OF THE WORLD. The savageness of unrestricted competition vanishes where a due regard is paid to the happiness or suffering of our companions. Nothing like a visit from the employer to the homes of his servants, or a sight by the speculator of the misery his unjust gains have entailed, to abate the fierceness of greed and to remedy grievances and wrongs. The world sorely needs brotherly kindness. Then would men and nations realize that what elevates one raises all, what depresses one truly enriches none. We may note that obedience to the latter clause of the text is perhaps more needful than compliance with the former. The distressed require help, the prosperous can do without it. But any separation of the two duties weakens both. It is not always easy to congratulate a fortunate compeer, any more than to assist the unlucky. No doubt we like to bask in the sunshine, and to withdraw from gloom. But the "elder brother" refused to join in the household felicitations, and the Levite and the Pharisee "passed by" the wounded traveller. Guard against the mere indulgence of passive sympathy. The rejoicing and mourning of the text imply an active sympathy, and action forms habits of good will and benevolence as Butler has described. Copy the Redeemer. No ascetic or misanthrope was he, who multiplied the innocent gaiety of the marriage feast, and mingled his tears with those of the weeping sisters of Lazarus. Even a hearty grasp of the hand adds to joy, and a moistened eye comforts those that mourn. The poorest in point of worldly goods may be rich in God-like sympathy. Many a man has been saved from utter despair by the knowledge that another was interested in his welfare. - S.R.A.

Recompense to no man evil for evil.

1. Not to hate others because they hate us (Matthew 5:44).

2. Not to curse others because they curse us (2 Samuel 16:10; Matthew 5:44).

3. Not to defraud others because they defraud us (Leviticus 19:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).

4. Not to speak evil of others because they speak evil of us (Titus 3:2; 1 Peter 3:9).

5. Not to neglect our duty to them because they do it to us.

(1)Praying for them (1 Timothy 2:1).

(2)Pitying their miseries (Romans 12:15).

(3)Helping them in their necessities (Galatians 6:10).


1. It is contrary to the rule (Matthew 7:12).

2. Hereby we do ourselves more injury than they did.

3. Yea, and more than we can do them.Conclusion: Consider —

1. None can hinder us without God (Isaiah 45:7).

2. Injuries patiently borne are both occasions of virtue.

3. It is better to bear an injury than to cause one.

4. We must follow the Saviour's example (1 Peter 2:23).

5. It is one of the noblest virtues of a Christian to live above injuries.

(Bp. Beveridge.)

is —



1. Fails to accomplish its own end.

2. Makes matters worse.

III. UNJUSTIFIABLE. Because it is —

1. To take the law into our own hands.

2. To assume the prerogative of God.


1. Opposed to the Spirit of Christ.

2. Inimical to our own moral development.

3. Utterly forbidden.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Provide things honest in the sight of all men. —


1. Think of them (1 Timothy 4:15).

2. Intend them (Psalm 17:3).

3. Endeavour them (2 Peter 1:5).

4. Practise them (1 John 3:18).

5. Continue the practice of them (1 Corinthians 15:58; Revelation 2:25, 26).


1. Towards God.

(1)Love to His person (Deuteronomy 6:5).

(2)Faith in His words (1 John 5:10).

(3)Trust on His promises (Hebrews 13:5, 6).

(4)Fear of His threatenings (Amos 3:8).

(5)Obedience to His precepts.

2. Towards men.

(1)To our superiors, subjection (Romans 13:1).

(2)To our inferiors, humility.

3. To all:

(1)Truth (Leviticus 19:11).

(2)Equity (Leviticus 19:35, 36).

(3)Love (Matthew 5:45).

(4)Honour (1 Peter 2:17).

(5)Prayers (1 Timothy 2:1).


1. So as to make open profession of our religion (Romans 1:16).

2. To manifest our integrity in it unto all (2 Corinthians 8:21).


1. Negatively. Not to gain credit for them (Matthew 6:1).

2. Positively.

(1)To stop others false accusing us (1 Peter 3:16).

(2)To be an example to others (1 Corinthians 11:1).

(3)For the glory of God (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12).

V. USE. Provide things honest, etc. Hereby you will —

1. Keep your conscience void of offence towards God and men (Acts 24:16).

2. Excite others to virtue (James 5:20.)

3. Be an honour to religion.

4. Be certain of God's blessing here (Psalm 39:12).

5. Be entitled to heaven hereafter.

(Bp. Beveridge.)


1. Not merely live honestly.

2. But pay attention to things approved and beautiful in the estimation of men.

3. This implies a regard not only for general consistency, but a respect for the amenities of life.


1. The Christian is the highest style of man.

2. Should be inferior to none in moral and social excellence.

3. Should recommend his profession.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. PROVIDE. Such is the message of the whole Bible. Right through industry is commended, idleness anathematised. Need we remind you of Solomon? Paul is quite as good in his way. "If any man will not work, neither shall he eat." Starve them out! Summary procedure, but salutary. Again, "if any provide not for his own, especially of his own house, he hath denied the faith," etc. Yes; for it is part of "the faith once delivered unto the saints" that we should "provide."

1. It is well that we have to do so. No man is to be pitied on account of it. A fine thing is work. It braces the soul like iron, quinine, or water, the body. An experienced African traveller says, " We sicken more from inactivity than from malaria."

2. Provide. What? "Things" —(1) Necessary. Our absolute wants are to be met.(2) But luxuries come under the phrase before us. Used in moderation they are not sinful. If they were, God would not set us so bad an example as to give them to us. What is the blush on the apple and the bloom on the peach, the fragrance of the rose and the music of the falling wave? Luxury. The oak not only affords us wood, but adorns the landscape; nor does it yield an inch less wood because it is a thing of beauty. Even so, we shall not be worse, but better, if we have a few good pictures on our walls and ornaments on our tables, if we enjoy the last tale or the newest poem. The infinite Father gives His children toys as well as tools.

3. Don't expect others to provide for you; do it yourself. We should cultivate a manly spirit of independence and self-help. According to a certain gage, every man has three fortunes, a head and a pair of hands; would that all made a diligent use of these fortunes. "God helps those that help themselves," and we should refuse to aid any others.

II. PROVIDE. THINGS HONEST. How may we do that? Nobody will have much difficulty in finding out, if he wishes to make the discovery. There are sundry practices which may well be looked at in the light of the text.

1. It is not an uncommon thing for men to get into debt when they know they have small chance of paying. We are well aware of the mode in which this is palliated. When a mob of rioters were about to attack a flour-mill, Luther stood between it and them. "Master, we must live," they cried. "I don't see that: you 'must' be honest," answered the brave reformer. Existence, precious though it be, is not to be bought at any price. But men are seldom, indeed, called to make such a desperate sacrifice. "Trust in the Lord, and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and, verily, thou shalt be fed." "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," etc. Encouraged by these assurances, let none of us compromise his integrity. "Owe no man anything." Rather than involve himself in debt Lord Macaulay sold the gold medals which he had won at Cambridge.

2. Sometimes goods are sold for what they are not. We occasionally speak about "getting goods under false pretences," but are they never got rid of under false pretences? What is the meaning of the common caution, "Beware of spurious imitations"? Think, also, of adulteration. How shamefully is the public sometimes imposed on in what it eats and drinks.

3. It is possible for persons in situations to be lax in their notions of their duty to their employers. If I engage to serve another for a given amount of remuneration for a certain period, I thereby sell him my time, my energy, my talent, and if I withhold it I am not honest.

III. PROVIDE THINGS HONEST IN THE SIGHT OF ALL MEN. Not only be honest, but let your honesty be seen. As Bengel remarks in connection with our text: "A gem should not merely be a gem; it should be properly set in a ring, that its splendour may meet the eye." "In the sight of all men."

1. For our own sakes. In the long run he is trusted who is trustworthy; integrity wins confidence. If I deal with a man and he deceives me, I mentally put a black mark against his name, and warn others of him. Thus his unrighteousness injures him, as, indeed, it ought to do. More money is to be made by going straight than by going crooked.

2. For the Church's sake. Nothing is so prejudicial to the interests of religion as lack of uprightness in men professing to be godly. Such monstrosities remind one of what a traveller saw in a Russian church — to wit, a fellow devoutly counting his rosary with one hand and picking a pocket with the other. Robert Burns wrote, "An honest man's the noblest work of God." He was right.

(T. R. Stevenson.)

The Christian, Boston, U.S.A.
A young man in a dry-goods store in Boston was endeavouring to sell a customer some goods. He had a quantity on hand which he much desired to dispose of, as they were not of the freshest style; and the man seemed inclined to take them. When the goods had been examined, and the bargain was about to be concluded, the customer inquired: "Are these goods the latest style?" The young man hesitated. He wanted to sell the goods, and it appeared evident that if he said they were the latest style, the man would take them. But he could not tell a lie, and he replied: "They are not the latest style of goods, but they are a very good style." The man looked at him, examined some other goods of later style, and said: "I will take those of the older style, and some of the new also. Your honesty in stating the facts will fasten me to this place." The man not only sold his goods, and kept a good conscience, but he also retained a customer, whom he might never have seen again if he had not spoken to him the exact truth. There is no permanent gain in falsehood and deception. Righteousness and truth are a sure foundation. ("The Christian," Boston, U.S.A.)

Robert Burns wrote, "An honest man's the noblest work of God." He was right. A man who is honest all round, honest. towards God, and honest towards his fellow-creatures, is the noblest work of God, When urged by his wife not to allow his conscience to stand in the way of fortunes Milton said, "I am resolved to live and die an honest man," Let us say the same, "Come gain or loss, come evil report or good report, come weal or woe, I am resolved to live and die an honest man."

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