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Whatever Happened To The Golden Rule?

September 2011
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“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Most of us are very familiar with that quote but most likely don’t know where it originated from. It is towards the end of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7; however, that specific wording of the verse is not found in the Bible but is derived from Matt. 7:12:  “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets (NASB).”

If you’ve ever read the Sermon on the Mount which starts out with the Beatitudes in Chapter 5: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…; those who mourn…; the meek…; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…; the merciful…; the pure in heart…; the peacemakers…; those who are persecuted for righteousness sake….” you might feel, like me, just a little overwhelmed at how to remember all of these things when you are going about your everyday life. And that is only the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. There is much more, for example, Chapter 5 goes on to talk about: Being salt and light in this world; anger; adultery and lust; divorce; not taking oaths; going the second mile; and loving your enemies. Chapter 6 continues with: Giving to the needy; the model prayer of Jesus (which is The Lord’s Prayer vv. 9-15); fasting; laying up treasures in heaven and not here on earth; not being anxious and worried; and the fact that you cannot serve both God and riches (e.g. materialism and possessions; money). And there’s still more in Chapter 7: Do not judge; keep asking, seeking, knocking; the golden rule, the narrow way (Jesus); knowing others by their fruit, and building on the Rock–the authority of Jesus.

Whoa… that list is daunting to say the least. I cannot remember it all on a daily, hour-by-hour basis, and I fall short more times then I want or when I catch myself after the fact (for example, if I have unfairly judged someone else) and cringe at how easily I stumble at times living up to these standards.

Many of the things listed in the sermon are taken from the Old Testament Prophets and the Law. As Jesus was giving the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament He clearly stated in Matt. 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Therefore, it is impossible for us to live by those standards in our own power (just as it was for those folks in the Old Testament). Jesus fulfilled the Law by His death on the Cross and made it possible for those of us who know Him personally to live the life He laid out in the Sermon on the Mount through His power in us and not our own power. That’s the key. And that requires that we have a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ in our daily lives by spending time with Him reading the Bible and getting clear direction for our lives and praying on a daily basis. We cannot depend on last Sunday’s sermon to give us the fuel we need to get through the week and never open our Bible except on Sunday (and let’s not even talk about the lack of prayer in our lives). We must be responsible for our own relationship with the Lord and if we neglect it, we don’t look or act any differently then the rest of the world and become blind to our own shortcomings.

As you know, I’ve already admitted how hard it is to remember all of the things Jesus mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount as I go about my daily life. And that is what brings me back to the topic of this post, the Golden Rule as stated in Matt. 7:12:  “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets (NASB).”

“Treat people the same way you want them to treat you….” If we keep this one concept at the forefront of our minds and lives, it will keep us from so many of the negative aspects of our lives that Jesus talked about in His sermon. If we truly treat others as we want others to treat us (whether or not they treat us in like fashion), we won’t show anger, or commit adultery or lust, etc. We’ll go the second mile, and we will love them (even our enemies) no matter what the circumstances. We’ll want to give to the needy, and we won’t be selfishly thinking about what we can get for ourselves in material possessions and money at the expense of or by using others. We won’t be anxious or worried, and we won’t judge others.

And, by treating people the same way we want to be treated by them (again, whether or not they treat us likewise), we don’t have to try to remember every item listed in the Sermon on the Mount, as we will be living it out in our daily lives by doing that one thing. In another passage, Jesus sums up the whole Law and how to live in one sentence, “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and (love) your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10: 26-28).”

There’s another item from the Sermon on the Mount that we need to consider. As Christians, Jesus tells us clearly that we are to be “salt and light” in this world (Matt. 5:13-16). I like how The Message Bible states these verses, 13Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. 14-16Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of keeping my eyes off of myself and stepping out to truly see God at work in and through us and others in this world.

Our present society and the world at large are in great turmoil, and it is rare anymore when we actually see or experience “The Golden Rule” in action. Mostly, what we see is the opposite: “Doing unto others before they do it unto us” and always looking out for number one. I say it’s time for us, as Christians, to stop that pattern, and we don’t have to remember every item listed in the Sermon on the Mount to accomplish it. We need to look to Jesus and His power within us and live by “The Golden Rule.”

And let’s start today…

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1 Comment

  1. Val says:

    It’s true there are only really 2 things…….Love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself .


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