The Golden Rule

by: Bill Bratt


The Golden Rule comes from the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus said: ""Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12).

Jesus knew the human heart and its selfishness. In verse 11, Jesus describes human beings as innately "evil". Jesusí Golden Rule gives us a standard by which naturally selfish people can gauge their actions: actively treat others the way they themselves would like to be treated.

The English Standard Version translates the Golden Rule like this: "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." Jesus brilliantly condenses the entire Old Testament into this single principle, taken from Leviticus 19:18: "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." Again, we see the implication that people are naturally lovers of self, and the command uses that human flaw as a place to start in how to treat others.

People universally demand respect, love, and appreciation, whether they deserve it or not. Jesus understood this desire and used it to promote godly behavior. Do you want to be shown respect? Then respect others. Do you crave a kind word? Then speak words of kindness to others. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). The Golden Rule is also part of the second greatest commandment, preceded only by the command to love God Himself (Matthew 22:37Ė39).

This quotation from Jesus was something which had never been said before. It was new teaching, a new view of life and of lifeís obligations. Jesus stated it in a positive command. Now letís notice the following quote is stated in a negative form: "The Golden Rule can be found in Jewish writings as early as the Apocryphal book of Tobit (third century B.C.E.), "What you hate, do to no one" (Tobit 4:15); similar sayings are attributed to Isocrates, Aristotle and Confucius. Rabbi Hillel expressed it in the generation before Yeshua (Jesus); a famous passage in the Talmud comparing Hillel with his contemporary, Shammai, tells the story: "A pagan came before Shammai and said to him, `Make me a proselyte, but on condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot!' Shammai drove him off with the builder's measuring rod which he had in his hand. When he appeared before Hillel, the latter told him, `What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn it! "'(Shabbat 31a)" (1)

"The negative form of the (golden) rule involves nothing more than not doing certain things; it means refraining from certain actions. It is never very difficult not to do things. That we must not do injury to other people is not a specially religious principle; it is rather a legal principle (2).

"The only man who can even begin to satisfy the positive form of the rule is the man who has the love of Christ within his heart. He will try to forgive as he would wish to be forgiven, to help as he would wish to be helped, to praise as he would wish to be praised, to understand as he would wish to be understood. He will never seek to avoid doing things; he will always look for things to do." (3)

If we could put the Golden Rule into practice in our life, our life and our relationships with other people would be drastically changed for the better. If everyone in the world obeyed this one verse, it would transform all areas of family life, national politics and international relationships. Believe it or not, world peace would be the result!

Second Greatest Commandment

The Golden Rule paraphrases Leviticus 19:18 which is in the old testament, "You are to love your neighbor as yourself," in which Jesus called the second-greatest commandment: "Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?" {29} Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. {30} 'And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. {31} "And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these"" (Mark 12:28-31).

The Ten Commandments controls our relationships with God and our neighbors. The first four of the commandments shows us how to have a good relationship with God the Father and our Creator (Exodus 20:3-11). The last six of the Ten Commandments shows us how to have a good relationship with our neighbors. The Golden Rule is a summary of the last six commandments listed in Exodus 20: {12} "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

{13} "You shall not murder.

{14} "You shall not commit adultery. {15} "You shall not steal.

{16} "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

{17} "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.""

These six commandments gives you six ways you can "love your neighbor as yourself". We all need to respect our parents. Jesus amplified the command not to murder in that we should not be angry or hate anyone (Matthew 5:22). Donít get involved with somebody elseís spouse, remember, you donít want someone messing with your spouse. Respect other peopleís property, because you want them to respect your property. Tell the truth - you donít like it when someone lies to you! Donít crave the possessions of your neighbor, be content with what you have.

Keeping Godís Commandments will help you to be happy (Proverbs 29:18).

Do you want to do well? James has the answer: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well" (James 2:8).

Four more Ways to Apply the Golden Rule

1. Control Your Tongue

"Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! {6} And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. {7} For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. {8} But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. {9} With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. {10} Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so" (James 3:5-10).

The tongue can be like a fire, in which words can be uttered quick and deadly. Words can hurt. We all say things at times that we regret. We must apologize and ask for forgiveness. The best way to avoid this is to be on guard as to what we say before we say it.

Jesus tells us that we will be held accountable and that by our words we will be condemned: "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. {37} "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned"" (Matthew 12:36-37).

There is an old expression that says: "If you canít say something good about somebody, then donít say it".

2. Donít Judge Others

""Judge not, that you be not judged. {2} "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. {3} "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? {4} "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? {5} "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:1-5).

People want to compare themselves to other people so that they can think that they are better than them. If you want to compare yourself to someone then compare yourself to Jesus.

If you really want to judge someone, then judge yourself (1Corinthians 11:31).

Letís remember that whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged.

3. Forgive and Forget

Jesus said in the model prayer that He gave us in the sermon on the mount (commonly called the Lordís prayer): "And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). In our daily prayers, each and everyone of us should be asking God for forgiveness of our sins and rebellion against Him and His law.

One thing that we have to remember is that God forgives in proportion as we forgive those who have sinned against us.

We need to learn to forgive like God forgives. "For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; {12} As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalms 103:11-12).

God forgives and forgets "as far as the east is from the west."

It is interesting to note that the two verses following the "model prayer" focuses back to forgiveness. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. {15} "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).

We must realize that holding a grudge may only affect us and our mental attitude. Donít let a root of bitterness take over your mind (Hebrews 12:15). Having "peace" of mind is a great Christian virtue and one of the fruits of Godís Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

We must forgive others so God will forgive us.

4. Love your Enemies

Jesus said: ""But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, {28} "bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. {29} "To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. {30} "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. {31} "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise" (Luke 6:27-31).

We all hate it when people treat us bad. Jesus had been beaten, spit upon and crucified, but He showed His love for His enemies when He said: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:34).

Obeying the Christian imperative to love others is a mark of a true Christian (John 13:35). In fact, Christians cannot claim to love God if they donít actively love other people as well. "If someone says, ĎI love Godí and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20).

In Conclusion:

"Do unto others as you would have them do to you!"


Footnotes: (1): David H. Stern, "The Jewish New Testament Commentary",1966, p. 33.

(2): William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, The Gospel of Matthew, 1975, p. 275.

(3): William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, The Gospel of Matthew, 1975, p. 277.