Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 17 Commentary

This is part of a series examining the Tao Te Ching from an LDS, Christ-centered perspective. I am not a spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are only my opinions. 

Chapter 17 of the Tao Te Ching examines governance. 

Chapter 17
The highest rulers, people do not know they have them
The next level, people love them and praise them
The next level, people fear them
The next level, people despise them
If the rulers' trust is insufficient
Have no trust in them

Proceeding calmly, valuing their words
Task accomplished, matter settled
The people all say, "We did it naturally"

Types of Rulers

So here we have listed four separate levels of rulers.

The top level of rulers is so efficient, people don't know they even exist. The next three levels inspire people to love them, fear them, and hate them, respectively. I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory. The next line is interesting: "If the rulers' trust is insufficient/ Have no trust in them."

Everyone is a mirror for ourselves. What we see in others is really what we see in ourselves. When a person, or a regime or ruler, sees reason for distrust in others, it is typically because that person is not trustworthy. When you get a ruler who does not trust his people, it is a sign that you should not trust that person.

We did it naturally

The second stanza in this chapter is brief, and kind of goes backwards. When people proceed calmly, valuing their words, tasks are accomplished and matters are settled "naturally."

There is a Biblical precedent for people valuing their words highly:
Matthew 12:36
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
Ephesians 4:29
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

The Bible also teaches that "in quietness and confidence" is our strength (Isaiah 30:15).


Proceeding calmly with measured words is a wise way to accomplish things.

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