The Gospels spell it out pretty clearly, “peace on Earth and good will toward men.” (These days, of course, we understand that to mean women, too.) That seems to be the standard set, the bedrock from which we are to conduct our affairs. We must, we should, operate with good will toward everyone in everything we do. All the time. In all things.
We even have that standard in law. Yes, law. In contracts, all provisions are to be conducted in good faith, a desire to do no harm. In torts, we are to take precautions not to injure each other.
If we conducted ourselves with good will toward all, what would that look like? We see the opposite of it embodied in Ebenezer Scrooge when asked if he would make some provisions for the poor who were in want for the common necessaries. Scrooge recommended they go to the prisons and to the workhouses. “Many can’t go there; many would rather die.” ” If they would rather die they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”
As it has been said that we are created in God’s image, so we create our society in our image. Does the society we are creating reflect God’s directive to act with good will toward all? Do we make provisions for the poor and the downtrodden? Are we looking out for “the least of these?” Or are we creating conditions to shuffle them off to prisons and to workhouses? Are we creating a society where the poor should just die and decrease the surplus population?
Can’t we instead create a more just society, a more harmonious society? We can take every action, political and personal, with the threshold question: does this act with good will toward all?
By the end of the story, Scrooge got the message. As it was written, upon his transformation, he became “… as good a man as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.” Scrooge learned the fundamental value of having and cherishing good will toward men. May we all.
Tis the season.