This is a restating of the Latin phrase, quid pro quo, which means, “two things exchanged for equal value” and is often used in criminal court when explaining a plea bargain where both sides truly give something up and both sides truly gain something. This phrase describes what is rather than what ought to be. In contrast, by using the word “deserves” in the proverb, it implies an appropriateness or obligation to repay something with equal value. A less formal stating of the principle is found in the words, “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” Different cultures have different understandings. In the Gitxsan culture of northern British Columbia, gifts require, at some point, a return gift of even greater value. As an outsider, I was always hesitant to give gifts, especially to poor people, as it made them obliged to pay me back with an even greater gift. Once I gave someone some money to help with repairs from a house fire. It was nearly a year later but they gave me a pair of shoes that were worth more than my gift. As they gave me the shoes, they said “thanks for your help” and I had to rack my brains as to what they might refer to. So many things around finance were radically different in that culture than my own - this was only one of many moments of confusion and education.

Luke 6:31
Do to others as you would have them do to you.

The phrase “one good turn deserves another” is not exactly a restating of “The Golden Rule” which appears not only in the Gospels but also in the teachings of practically every known religion. What is different is that Jesus speaks of an initiative rather than a reaction. To use militaristic language, he speaks of our actions as a “first strike.” In the proverb “one good turn deserves another”, it is very much about a reaction that is "deserved" rather than a grace-filled choice to initiate goodness. As beautiful and simple as the Golden Rule is, in practice it can be a little confusing. Does it mean that, if I loved macaroni and cheese beyond all things, I should be serving it to anyone and everyone because of that? Isn't that a little bit like buying football gear for my wife who doesn't know a penalty kick from a field goal? Given it is a pretty universal habit to project our likes and dislikes onto other people, some caution needs to be exercised when living out these, seemingly obvious, words.

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Comment by Sandy Mackay on 4th mo. 19, 2017 at 10:47am

A good reminder of healthy boundaries; what I want or need for myself is not necessarily healthy, helpful or good for another.

Comment by James C Schultz on 4th mo. 19, 2017 at 2:21pm

Reminds me of my youth when Dad, just before he stripped a bolt, would say "just one more turn". :)

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