Can you pass the Flamingo Test?

The British Journal of Sports Medicine published an article recently which has attracted much attention.

The article, based on Brazilian research using a specimen of 1,700 people, has concluded that those over the age of 50 who are unable to stand on one leg for 10 seconds have a higher risk of dying within 10 years than those who successfully pass the test.

The news item was covered on morning television last week, when presenter Richard Madeley completed it successfully. However, when asked to do so with his eyes closed, he was not quite so stable. Researchers feel that the inability to complete the test has more to do with certain issues in the brain, rather than inherent strength.

A famous Jewish teacher was once confronted with his own ‘Flamingo Test’.

Rev David Clarke

Rabbi Hillel, about 2,000 years ago, was once asked to recite the whole law while standing on one leg.

To the Jews, the law was more than just the Ten Commandments. The first five books of the Bible are often known as ‘the Law’.

Besides, Jewish teachers had developed laws explaining and defining the Ten Commandments. For instance, when the Sabbath law forbade work on the seventh day, how exactly was the word ‘work’ to be defined? In this way over 600 regulations were added to the law.

Rabbi Hillel knew that were he to recite such things while standing on one leg, he would have to do so for many minutes, or even longer. The task would be frankly impossible. His answer was clever and comprehensive; ‘What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow. That is the whole law and all the rest is commentary’.

That answer, while excellent as far as it goes, is an Old Testament answer. It is negative; do not do the hateful thing.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus laid down a positive injunction; ‘In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 7;12). We could probably manage to say that while standing on one leg!

Jesus was once asked by a lawyer how he might inherit eternal life.

Jesus turned the question back on the questioner, who then summarised the law as follows; ‘Love God and love your neighbour as yourself’ (Luke 10; 27).

Jesus commended the lawyer, but the latter was not inclined to let the matter go, and asked for a definition of the word neighbour. That question gave Jesus the opportunity to tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan, who was so helpful to the man who fell among thieves.

It was a perfect example of what it means ‘to do to others what you would have them do to you’.

Let’s try to be a ‘Good Samaritan’ to someone today.

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