"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (NKJV).
This statement has been called, "the capstone of Christ's discourse" and "the Everest of all ethical teaching". Go pretty much anywhere in the world and you'll sense that this appeal to man's conscience applies, in some form, even there.
This is because, in a negative form, the golden rule is found in the teachings of: Socrates, Aristotle, Confucius, Buddha, and Hillel. Rabbi Hillel's version read, "What is hateful to yourself do not do to someone else." Jesus, however, changed the rule from the negative to the positive and from the passive to the active: enshrining it in every heart and mind through His matchless life.
Before we are reminded of the golden rule's straightforward explanation it's important for us to see where it lands in the context of Christ's sermon. He begins verse 12 saying, "Therefore"; and any committed student of the Bible should ask the question, "What's it there for?"
1. The Context of the Statement
Jesus essentially says, "Therefore, in light of:
- The Beatitudes (5:1-12)
- The Similitudes (5:13-15 - salt & light)
- Sins begins in the heart (5:21-30)
- Divorce (5:31-32)
- Vows (5:33-37)
- Retaliation (5:38-42)
- Love (5:43-48)
- Giving (6:1-4)
- Prayer (6:5-13)
- Forgiveness (6:14)
- Fasting (6:16-18)
- Wealth and Worry (6:19-34)
- Righteous Judgment (7:1-6)
- Ask, seek, & knock, God answers (7:7-11)
"Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." It's basically Christ's summary point before entering the conclusion of His sermon in verses 13-28. He could have also said, "In summary, do unto others as you would have them do unto you…" Now that the context is clear, it's important to understand that the golden rule is a…
2. The Command by Our Savior
Jesus took this well know negative and passive code of conduct and created a positive and active command. In simplicity and Divine wisdom He takes the second great commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself", which is more of an attitude than an action; and he reminds us that our actions should be driven by our attitudes. He condensed all moral conduct down to one filter, "Treat others the way you want to be treated." But do not mistake simplicity of recitation for simplicity of application…
Jesus did not say, "Do AS others do unto you" or "Do WHEN others do unto you". No, He advised us to adopt other people's perspective and then act accordingly.
Jesus commanded this affirmative action because He designed "The Golden Rule" to be the "Golden Ticket" to healthy relationships.
Do you want a better marriage? Put yourself in your spouse's shoes and love accordingly (figuratively of course, no cross-dressing please). Paul, essentially says this in Eph. 5:28, "In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself" (NKJV).
Do you want a better parent/child relationship? Give honor to one another by considering each other compassionately. Eph. 6:1-4 says, "Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. 2 'Honor your father and mother.' This is the first commandment with a promise: 3 if you honor your father and mother, 'things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.' 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord" (NKJV).
Do you want a promotion at work? Put yourself in your boss' shoes and work like you would have someone work for you. Like Paul says in Eph. 6:5-8, "Slaves [employees], obey your earthly masters [bosses] with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. 6 Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 9 Masters [bosses], treat your slaves [employees] in the same way. Don't threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites. (NKJV).
Do you want unity in the church? Treat your faith family the way you would like to be treated. Romans 12:10 "Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other" (NKJV).
Do you want a good relationship with your neighbor? BE the kind of neighbor that you would like to have living next door. Mark 12:31, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (NKJV).
Jesus says that embodied in the Mosaic Law and amplified in the prophetic word, the golden rule is the underlying principle of all morality. We are to consider the needs of others then behave accordingly. This is a difficult rule to apply to your life, as it will be challenged often, but the ultimate fruit of its application is worth the effort.
3. The Christ-like Spirit in Every Saint
True followers of Jesus Christ not only recite the golden rule they incite the golden rule. The good news about the golden rule is that we are not left to ourselves to muster up the drive and determination to implement it daily in our lives. We have the wonderful Help of the Holy Spirit.
The Word of God clearly tells us that the moment we trust in Christ for salvation we are indwelt with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. Jesus said in John 7:38&39, "'He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (NKJV).
The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier and our source of spiritual strength to serve. He gives us the: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to "Do unto others as we want others to do unto us." He also enables the doing of it by His resurrection power.
Believers are not just good people they're God's people; gifted and empowered by His Spirit. When the world witnesses Christians living out the golden rule: at home, at church, at work, and in the community – they see Christ!
The Son of God is glorified in and loved by the Father and the Spirit, so when Jesus walked the earth the Spirit was constantly drawn to him. When Jesus sent out His disciples He sent them in the care of the Holy Spirit. After Christ ascended, the Holy Spirit was naturally drawn to the ones Jesus loved, His redeemed. He left us in the care of the Holy Spirit, to live and love as He did.
Paul writes, "Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to
the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Phil 2:1-8 NKJV).
Jesus was the perfect embodiment of the golden rule in that He put Himself in our shoes and then lovingly met our need. So, "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus". Jesus came NOT to be served but to serve and give His life (Matt. 20:28).
When we talked about the Holy and precious things (verse 6) I told you the simple truth of things that are sanctified and holy is that God chose them for Himself. Likewise we know that God has chosen His redeemed and placed us in the loving care of His Holy Spirit. And the Golden Rule is the way God has chosen for us to love each other, as He commanded. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is the embodiment or the active sense of love your neighbor as yourself. The Golden Rule is a sign of our faith; because we really believe that God is good, merciful, and righteous, we can love others by treating them the way we want to be treated.
Questions to consider:
- Why do you think the golden rule has universal application?
- Why did Jesus take the commonly known golden rule, "What is hateful to yourself do not do to someone else" and turn it into "Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them"?
- Share some examples of implementing the golden rule in every day life then share how these actions could open the door for the gospel.