Cultivating humaneness, a noble heart and the holy spirit

(Analects of Confucius 1.1)

The Master said, “Is it not a pleasure to learn, and, when it is timely, to practice what you have learned? Is it not a joy to have friends coming from afar? Is it not gentlemanly not to become resentful if no one takes notice of your learning?”

In 500 B.C. a Chinese Philosopher called Confucius attracted many followers due to his teachings about becoming a virtuous person to create a better society.

Confucius statue in Shanghai, China.

Confucius explained that everyone can improve their behavior by focusing on the humaneness of a cultured person. The Analects of Confucius contains discussions between him and his followers and centers around the two ancient Chinese words humaneness and gentleman.

Humaneness, benevolence, goodness, Love

Confucius called the benevolent behavior of a good person humaneness and a group or class of morally upright and virtuous individuals the gentleman, or noble

(Analects of Confucius 6.22)

Fan Chi asked about wisdom. The Master said, “Work for what is appropriate and right in human relationships; show respect to the gods and spirits while keeping them at a distance – this can be called wisdom.”

Fan Chi asked about humaneness. The Master said: “The humane takes on the difficult first and will not attend to any benefits until the task is completed.”

Royal Procession by the gentlemen of the state

(Analects of Confucius 14.4)

The Master said:

A person who has integrity is sure to have something to say, but a person who has something to say does not necessarily have integrity. A person who is humane is sure to possess courage, but a person who possesses courage is not necessarily humane.”

(junzi) Gentleman, a noble one, a superior person, exemplary individuals

(Analects of Confucius 2.13)

Zigong asked about the gentleman. The Master said, “He first puts his words into action. He then lets his words follow his actions.”

(Analects of Confucius 2.14)

Confucius said, “The noble one is fair minded and generous; he is not partisan or divisive. A petty man is partisan and divisive; he is not fair minded or generous.”

(Analects of Confucius 14.42)

Zilu asked about the gentleman, the noble ones. The Master said:

“He cultivates himself in order to acquire a respectful attitude.”

Zilu said: “Is that all?”

The Master said: “He cultivates himself in order to give ease to those around him.”

Zilu said: “Is that all?”

The Master said: “He cultivates himself in order to give ease to the people. To cultivate oneself in order to give ease to the people – even the sage rulers Yao and Shun found it difficult to do.”

Ancient Virtuous Rulers – the Three Great Sage Kings

(Analects of Confucius 12.4)

Sima Niu asked about the gentleman (the noble person).

The Master said, “A gentleman has no vexations and no fears.”

“Having no vexations and no fears- is that what it means to be a gentleman?”

The Master said, “When such a person looks into himself and finds that he has done nothing wrong, what vexations and what fears could he have?”

Song Dinner Party

(Analects of Confucius 7.6)

The Master said: “Set your aim for the Way, hold on to your integrity, rely on your humaneness, and get your share of play in the arts.”

Confucian Disciples should set their sights on the highest idea; that they should aim to live a moral life. And to get there, they should guard their integrity, lean on their humane impulses and roam freely in the artistic fields.

(Analects of Confucius 13.25)

The Master said:

“The gentleman is easy to serve but difficult to please. He will not be happy if, in trying to please him, you veer from the proper way; but when he employs others, he does so with respect to their capacity. The petty man is difficult to serve but easy to please. He will be happy even though, in trying to please him, you veer from the proper way; but when he employs others, he expects them to be able to handle everything.”

Tang Civil Service Exam

(Analects of Confucius 13.26)

The Master said:

“The gentleman has breadth of character but is not arrogant. The petty man is arrogant but has no breadth of character.”

(Analects of Confucius 14.28)

The Master said:

“The way of the gentleman consists of three things, none of which I have been able to realize: the humane never suffer from vexation, the wise are never perplexed, the brave are never afraid.”

Zigong said: “The Master has just given a description of himself.”

(Analects of Confucius 14.23)

The Master said:

“The gentleman reaches the higher things. The petty man understands the lower things.”

(Analects of Confucius 14.27)

“The gentleman would be ashamed to let his words run ahead of his action.”

(Analects of Confucius 7.26)

The Master said, “Since I have no hope of meeting a sage, it would be enough if I could meet a gentleman. Since I have no hope of meeting a truly good man, it would be enough to meet a person of constancy. As for those who claim to have something when they have nothing, to be full when they are empty, to be comfortable when they are tight, it is hard to expect them to be constant.”

Zhou Administrators

(Analects of Confucius 7.34)

The Master said, “I dare not call myself a sage or a humane man. What could be said of me is that I work toward it without ever feeling sated and I am never tired of teaching.”

Gongxi Hua remarked, “It is precisely in this that we, your disciples, are unable to emulate you.”

(Analects of Confucius 14.35)

The Master said: “No one understands me.”

Zigong said: “Why is it that no one understands you?”

The Master said: “I blame neither Heaven nor men for my not being understood. I begin my learning from the ground and travel up to reach a higher knowledge. It is, I believe, only Heaven that understands me.”

(“Learning from the ground” could refer to either learning how to handle practical problems in the human world or learning that gives moral footing.)

(Analects of Confucius 15.2)

In Chen, when their provisions ran out, the followers of Confucius had become so weak that none of them could rise to their feet. Zilu, with a resentful look, said, “Does a gentleman find himself in circumstances as bleak as this?”

The Master said, “Of course the gentleman would find himself in circumstances as bleak as this. It is the petty man who would not be able to withstand it.”

(Analects of Confucius 15.15)

The Master said, “Be hard on yourself and be sparing when criticizing others-this way you will keep resentment at bay.”

(Analects of Confucius 9.18)

The Master said,

“I have never met a person who loved virtue as much as he loved physical beauty.”

(Analects of Confucius 15.12)

The Master said, “I should give up hope! I have never met a person who loved virtue as much as he loved physical beauty.”

Confucius emphasizes the importance of inner beauty vs outer beauty, which the Bible also exhorts in many passages like 1 Samuel 16:7 or 1 Peter 3:3-4

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Thousand year old Tang Dynasty bronze mirror

(Analects of Confucius 7.30)

The Master said,

“Is humaneness far away? As soon as I desire humaneness, it is here.”

(Analects of Confucius 4.6)

The Master said:

“I have never seen a person who truly loved humaneness or a person who was truly repelled by a lack of humaneness. A person who truly loved humaneness would think that nothing could surpass humaneness. A person who was truly repelled by the lack of humaneness, while putting humaneness into practice, would not allow any inhumane person to influence his conduct.

Is it possible for a person, in the space of a day, to devote all his effort to the practice of humaneness? I have never seen a person who lacks the strength to do so. There may be one, but I have not seen such a person.”

How can humaneness be so accessible yet so difficult to attain? Because people are easily distracted and led away from the proper path by sin.


The Biblical Prophets foretold of a figure who would be able to devote his effort all his life to the practice of humaneness and turn the people away from sin.

(Isaiah 59:20) “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD. The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the LORD .

Mary and Angel

There are similarities between the teachings and philosophies of Confucius and Jesus, such as telling their followers to be virtuous, merciful and forgiving. Additionally they are both known for their teachings on humility and simplicity, giving up worldly possessions and serving others. Despite these similarities, there are some differences; Confucius rarely mentioned God and focused instead on ideas such as filial piety, social harmony and the self cultivation of the gentlemen.


(Analects of Confucius 14.34)

Someone said,

“What do you think of the expression ‘Repay a wrong with kindness?’”

The Master said, “How, then, would you repay kindness? Repay a wrong with uprightness. Repay kindness with kindness.”

The mind cannot easily forget a grievance, but one can use an open and upright response to overcome that feeling. The opposite of openness and uprightness is pretense. To teach people to respond to a wrong with kindness is to teach them pretense and duplicity which cannot be morally right.

The concept of guarding oneself from becoming resentful and being influenced by wrong behavior also emphasized in the Bible with the forgiveness of sins.

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)


(Analects of Confucius 6.26 and 14.31)

The Master said, “Not to anticipate deception and not to expect bad faith and yet to be the first to be aware of such behavior – this is proof of one’s worthiness.”

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

(Analects of Confucius 15.32)

The Master said, “The gentleman makes plans to realize the Way; he does not make plans to secure food. If you decide to till the field and plant crops, there still will be times when you will go hungry. If you devote your life to learning, there will be times when you may receive an official stipend for putting your knowledge to work. The gentleman worries about the Way. He does not worry about being poor.”

The moral path is more important than even securing food, and when Jesus was tested in the desert by hunger he expressed the importance of obeying moral principles in Matthew 4:4

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

(The Analects of Confucius 6.30)

Zigong Said:

“If there is someone who is generous to his people and works to give relief to all those in need, what do you think of him? Do you think he can be called humane?”

The Master said:

“This is no longer a matter of humaneness. You must be referring to a Sage. Even Yao and Shun (ancient sovereigns) found it difficult to accomplish what you’ve just described. A humane person steadies himself, and so he helps others to steady themselves. Because he wishes to reach his goal, he helps others to reach theirs. The ability to make an analogy from what is close at hand is the method and the way of realizing humaneness.”

Black and white reproduction of a painting depicting the miracle of five loaves and two fish
by George Wang Suda 王肅達 1936

(Analects of Confucius 1.3)

The Master said, “A man of clever words and of a pleasing countenance is bound to be short on humanity.”

Jesus faced opposition from the ruling priesthood in Jerusalem called the Pharisees, who were supposed to be the gentlemen or nobility.

(Matthew 15:7-8)

Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

(Analects of Confucius 14.6)

The Master said: “A gentleman but not humane, there are such examples. But there has never been a petty man who is humane.”

(Matthew 5:12)

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees, the upper class priesthood claimed to be diligently practicing their ancestral faith, but these gentlemen were imposters, they had failed in their duty to act with humaneness towards the people they were supposed to serve. They had become pretenders, hypocrites who obeyed the letter of the law but did not understand the spirit of the law.

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

Christ in the house of sisters Martha and Mary

(Analects of Confucius 15.21)

The Master said, “The gentleman makes demands on himself. The petty man makes demands on others.”

The Pharisees were supposed to be the gentlemen but they were petty men.

“They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4).

(Analects of Confucius 12.16)

The Master said,

“A gentleman helps others to realize what is good in them. He does not help others to realize what is reprehensible about them. A petty man is just the opposite.”

(Matthew 23:13-15)

13“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Last Supper

(Analects of Confucius 13.27)

The Master said:

“Unwavering in integrity, resolute in one’s moral conviction, simple as a piece of unadorned wood and hesitant to speak – these qualities come close to being humane.”

(Analects of Confucius 15.37)

The Master said, “The gentleman is true to what is right but does not commit himself to the small idea of trust.”

Garden of Gethsemane

(Analects of Confucius 15.9)

The Master said: “A man of high purpose and a man with deep humaneness would not seek to stay alive at the expense of humaneness. There are times when they would sacrifice their lives to have humaneness fulfilled.”

(Analects of Confucius 15.35)

The Master said,

“The common people rely more on humaneness for living than on water and fire. I have known people who died from treading on water and fire. But I have never known anyone who died from treading on the path of humaneness.”

(Analects of Confucius 15.36)

The Master said, “When encountering matters that involve the question of humaneness, do not yield even to your teacher.”

Confucius seems to contradict himself here when he says that a morally superior person would sacrifice themselves for humane principles and then says that he has never known anyone who died on the path of humaneness.

The explanation can be found in the concept of the Messiah, the savior of the people, those willing to risk their lives for humaneness did not ever die because, though their physical bodies perished, their heart, their spirit remained alive.


(Analects of Confucius 15.33)

The Master said, “Your knowledge is sufficient to govern the people, but if it is beyond the strength of your humaneness to guard it, you will lose it even though you have gotten it. Your knowledge is sufficient to govern the people and it is within the strength of your humaneness to guard it, but if you lack the dignity to rule over your subjects, then they will not respect you. Your knowledge is sufficient to govern the people and it is within the strength of your humaneness to guard it and you possess the dignity to rule over your subjects, but if you do not rally them into action in accordance with the rites, it is still not good enough.”

The Messiah manifested all of these qualities, he not only had the sufficient knowledge to govern the people, he exhibited humaneness to guard it, the dignity to earn respect and he rallied them into action in accordance with the Mosaic rites, especially during the last week of his life and ministry when he performed the role of the Paschal Lamb for Passover in the ritual sacrifice.

Jesus Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Laws of the Hebrews, by embodying the philosophical and moral principles of Confucius, namely, humaneness.

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