In the Jewish cultural world the Yiddish term mensch refers to a person who has admirable, dignified, and even noble characteristics. It speaks of someone who consistently displays a kind of winsome and inspiring fundamental decency. It points to an individual who is respected and trusted because of their sense of ethics, fairness, and overall manner with which they carry themselves as they do life.
The corresponding expression Menschkeit is essentially what it looks like to be a mensch in real time. It’s a way of living connected to a selfless drive for doing the right and decent thing regardless of the situation.
In order to be a mensch in the sense of one who is continually and progressively becoming more like Yeshua in character and conduct, there are some common yet toxic behaviors that require our resisting the pull of the flesh while seeking the control of the Spirit. Here are some examples:
Being Envious of Other People – This comparison game is dead in the water because it measures the wrong thing. It makes the reference point of evaluation fellow sin corrupted human beings for whom Messiah died rather than Messiah Himself. It focuses on the physical appearance, monetary wealth, intelligence, and accomplishments of both redeemed and unredeemed individuals instead of the character traits of the Redeemer. Its ladder is leaning against the wall of imagined personal self-fulfillment instead of the wall of integrity before God and intimacy with God. Our sanctification journey is our sanctification journey. Spiritual maturity recognizes that in the big picture of things we’re not in competition with anyone.
Lack of Empathy, Compassion, and Concern for Others – We see this every day online and in the media. People are devastatingly unkind and hurtful to others because they can. People tear down people via the internet in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a shield. Cruelty and backstabbing for any reason is toxic, and it hurts us as well. This is not about some kind of spineless compromising politically correct etiquette; it’s about displaying a degree of civility that honors the name of the One we claim to follow. Obviously, right here right now, there’s a plethora of reasons for legitimate and justified outrage that’s a moral and ethical no-brainer (cf. Isa. 5:20)! Yet not as an either/or, but as a both/and, we also do well to pray for wisdom as to when and how to pick our societal and cultural spots of engagement. As “salt” (cf. Matt. 5:13), Messiah’s disciples can positively affect the world through their lives and witness to bring blessing to others and retard the natural decay that sin produces in a human life. As “light” (cf. Matt. 5:14-16), Messiah’s disciples can positively illuminate a sin-darkened world while pointing the way for others to glorify the Father in Heaven. Instead, too often, we sound like just another pissed off voice in a cacophony of pissed off voices.
Cheating and Moral Compromise – Cheating is not a mistake, it’s not an excuse, it’s a choice! If we decide to cheat, and if we “get away with it” by cheating someone out of something, we shouldn’t think that the target of our dishonesty is a fool. We should realize that this person trusted us much more than we deserved to be trusted.
It’s the same thing with immorality. We shouldn’t do immoral things simply because we can. Doing the right thing is being honest with yourself and everyone else. Integrity is the essence of everything that’s truly successful and honoring to God. This is why the wisdom literature of Tanakh contains the following exhortation: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Prov. 4:23).
Obsessive Negative Thinking – No one gets a pass from painful and depressing situations. And if you’re an unbeliever really the best you can do in terms of hope is to engage in wishful thinking about the future that somehow it’s all going to come out in the wash. But if you’re a believer you don’t have to stay totally stuck in a dark place of profound disappointment indefinitely. You can look ahead with confident expectation that with regard to the full realization of your salvation, God will accomplish everything He has promised to do. This absolute certainty is the mental/emotional reality central of a mensch. It enables one to live wisely and serve honorably in the present temporary world while also passionately waiting for the soon coming eternal world.
When all is said and done, the best way of doing life under the sun, and for the Son, is Menschkeit 101 (cf. Ecc. 12:13).