“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12 ESV)
Today we study the command by Jesus known as The Golden Rule. But before we dive into it, it’s important to note the very first word: So.
This word implies that all that was said before it should result in what Jesus is about to say next. Up to this point in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has explained what the life of one of His true disciples looks like. This included the eight beatitudes, the proper way to give, pray, and fast. He has pointed out many of our flaws including our way of thinking about others and God.
Therefore, since we are far from perfect we should not treat others as if we were. A better approach to life is to treat others the way we want to be treated.
Notice that Jesus’ words imply action. He tells us to “do” – to live in a certain way; to be proactive. We are not to wait for others to do good things to and for us. We are to do whatever we wish others would do to [us]. We are to make the first move.
Interestingly, an axiom similar to this one from Jesus had existed long before Jesus walked the earth. For example, Confucius, who lived approximately 500 years before Christ, made the famous quote “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”. Isocrates (436–338 BC), the Greek orator, said “Don’t do to others what angers you when you experience it from others”. An ancient Jewish saying dating back 200+ years before Jesus says “See that you never do to another what you’d hate to have done to yourself”. Many other religions and cultures have a similar saying.
Many Bible critics will claim that Jesus simply stole the concept of the Golden Rule from these previous philosophers. But a careful study shows this is not true.
Notice how all the other “Golden Rule”s are phrased in the negative and are focused on self. Jesus’ is phrased in the positive and is focused on others. This is very significant. Man’s best ideas to make life better come through the elimination of our own bad behavior. God’s way of making life better comes by intentionally acting in a way that improves the lives of others. We are to be sacrificially selfless.
Jesus (who was God in a human body), as He has done throughout the Sermon on the Mount, turns human thinking on its head and exposes it for the fruitlessness that it is. Jesus’ golden rule is nothing like the golden rules created by man. Not by a long shot.
There are many in our world today who think that we can make the planet a better place through the suppression of actions, either by legislation or public pressure (e.g. through social media). A better life does not happen by restricting our behavior. A better life can only happen through proactive, intentional behavior that is beneficial towards others.
This is exactly what God did. He came to earth to pay the penalty for our sins even though we didn’t ask Him to and even though we didn’t realize we needed Him to [John 3:16; Romans 5:8]. God went first. He took unilateral action to make our lives better.
Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone simply tried to live this way too.
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