One of the basic laws of physics is that for every action, there is a corresponding reaction. We learn this principle as children. I learned early on that certain behavior would cause me to be spanked, certain behavior would earn me compliments and praise, certain behavior would cause me to get hurt, and certain behavior would bring me happiness. Very early in our development we come to understand that actions carry consequences, therefore we have great need to control our actions.
In Matthew 7:12, Jesus gives what came to be known as “The Golden Rule.” The verse says “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV) The basic principle of this Golden Rule shows up quite often in a variety of places and forms. It is unique in that it is stated positively. There are several ancient sayings from various writers that are comparable to The Golden Rule, but these writers and philosophers always stated it in negative terms. Probably the most famous of these sayings comes from the Great Rabbi Hillel who wrote “What is hateful to yourself, do to no other; that is the whole Law; the rest is commentary.” (Rabbi Hillel; Shabboth; 31a) Notice his negative perspective. It has been pointed out that Rabbi Hillel, and other writers and philosophers, are coming at it from, what is in fact, a selfish perspective.
The Golden Rule that Jesus gave us is simple enough that it is one of the first things children are taught in Sunday School and one of the first verses they memorize. However, truly living by The Golden Rule is difficult. Even the secular world recognizes the need for people to live this way and occasionally makes attempts to get people to follow the concept. For instance, The Kentucky Department of Motor Vehicles’ final word for those who must take their safe dirving course is “Treat other drivers as you would want to be treated.”
Some have called for the performance of random acts of kindness based on this verse. You have no doubt heard of persons paying for the person behind them at a toll booth or a drive through. Most anyone could agree that if we lived day by day by The Golden Rule, the world would be a much better place. The implications are limitless but just a few examples make the point. If you do not want someone littering on your property, then do not litter on any one else’s property. If you do not want to be laughed at and made fun of then you should not laugh at and make fun of anyone else. If you do not want anyone to lie to you, you should not lie to anyone else. If you do not want anyone cheating you, you should not cheat anyone else. If you want others to tell you the truth always, then you should always tell the truth. There really is no end to the practical implications of what Jesus teaches in Mat. 7:12. Sadly, as sinful human beings, we often have a double standard. We are much more likely to live by the adage “Do not do to me what I am doing to you!” Far too many people live by the “Law of the Jungle” (“Kill or be Killed”) than by The Golden Rule.
One mistake many make is trying to follow a social or secular version of The Golden Rule done only in human strength, will, and determination. It fails because people fail. The best approach is to start where Jesus taught we should start and that is with God. How much you really love God and how committed you are to His Word will determine, more than anything else, how much you love other people and therefore respect them and treat them properly.
The Golden Rule is regarded as an exegesis of the great positive commandment of Leviticus 19:18 which says “You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” In Matthew 22, the religious leaders had come to Jesus, questioning Him, and asked Him which is the greatest commandment of all. Jesus’ response is given in vs. 37-40. “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Mat. 22:37-40). Until we love God properly, we are not going to love people properly. Nothing should characterize God’s people (the church) any more than “love.” We should love one another and care for one another! First John 4:7-8, 11 says “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” If you claim to be a Christian and the concept of love, and talk about love makes you uneasy or uncomfortable, then you might want to consider that you do not know Christ as Savior. Love is what it is all about! What then sums up the Law and the Prophets? Love! God gave His law because He loved His people and wanted them to do what was right. He knew that He needed to tell them what was right or they would not know. God sent His prophets because He loved His people and wanted to warn them that they faced discipline for their sin if they did not return to Him.
One of the most important things we need to keep in the front of our minds as we go through life is that we are sinners. If we ever lose sight of our own “humanity” and subsequent “sinfulness” we will have a highly skewed view of God and others. The key to success is to keep the proper view of God; then having the proper view of others will come surprisingly natural. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it this way “It helps us to see others as we should see them. We see them now, no longer as hateful people who are trying to rob us of our rights, or trying to beat us in the race for money, or position or fame; we see them, as we see ourselves, as the victims of sin and of Satan, as the dupes of ‘the god of this world,’ as fellow creatures who are under the wrath of God and hell bound. We have an entirely new view of them. We see them to be exactly as we are ourselves, and we are both in a terrible predicament. And we can do nothing; but both of us together must run to Christ and avail ourselves of His wonderful grace. We begin to enjoy it together and we want to share it together. That is how it works. It is the only way whereby we can ever do unto others as we would that they should do unto us. It is when we are really loving our neighbor as ourselves because we have been delivered from the throws of self, that we begin to enjoy ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God.’” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Studies in the Sermon on the Mount Vol. 2; 214-15)
Love must be the motivating factor if we are to live out The Golden Rule. We must first love God supremely and then because of that love for Him, we are able to properly love one another and treat others the way, we ourselves want to be treated.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor