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Sermon On The Mount Series
The Golden Rule

by John Edmiston

Matthew 7:12 NKJV Therefore whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.


Introduction

This is the Golden Rule about how we should treat other people. It is unique to Christianity. Other moral codes say it in the negative form “do not do to others, those things that you would not like done to you”. This prohibits people from being mean, nasty and cruel. But the Golden Rule asks us to be a blessing, and to do those things to others, that we would like done to ourselves.

The interesting part of this command is that it does not involve the Scriptures. You do not need to look up the Bible to figure out how to obey the Golden Rule. All you have to do is to look inside yourself. You have wants, needs and desires and they are important to you. They are also important to other people. So if you want to know how to treat other people, then ask yourself “how would I like to be treated in this exact same situation”.

  1. If you want safety and security then you should act so that you cause other people to feel safe and secure.

  2. If you want people to care about you - then you should care for others as well.

  3. If you want people to be helpful to you - you should be helpful to them.

  4. If you want fair remuneration - then you should pay fair remuneration.

  5. If you want mercy - then you should be merciful.

  6. If you want forgiveness then you should be forgiving.

  7. If you want significance, then you should help others to become significant.

  8. If you want wealth then you should help others to become wealthy.

  9. If you want love then you should love others.

  10. If you want people to pray for you, then you should pray for them.

  11. If you want to be happy then you should try to make others happy as well.

  12. If you want encouragement and understanding then you should be encouraging and understanding.

The Golden Rule is grounded in our equal and common humanity. The things I desire are quite likely to be the things you desire also. We have similar needs and a similar sense of how we would like to be treated. Everyone wants to be treated fairly, everyone wants courtesy and kindness and good manners, everyone wants safety and security, everyone wants recognition and a say in the decisions that affect them.

As I say in nearly every sermon, God treats us the same way that we treat others. God shows mercy to the merciful and forgives those who are forgiving, and blesses those who bless others. God is also stingy with the stingy and shrewd with the shrewd and very tough on those who are cruel to others. By this rule of thumb, if we meet the legitimate desires of other people - then God will meet our desires.

The Golden Rule is BOTH a wonderful moral precept and key to great blessing.

a) It is a wonderful moral precept that would lead to justice, fair wages, democracy and and end to all war and cruelty. You cannot obey the Golden Rule and be a tyrant and a torturer. And the rich corporate executives who obeyed the Golden Rule would give good health coverage to their workers and ensure job security and share profits. For that is surely what they would like for themselves. If everyone on earth obeyed the Golden Rule we would live in a safe and happy world where all the basic human desires were fully met.

b) Secondly the Golden Rule is a key to great blessing because God watches how we treat others. If we do kind, good, caring things for others, then God will do kind, good caring things for us. We reap what we sow and what goes around comes around. If we sow good deeds and care for others as we care for ourselves then God will care for us as He does for the angels in heaven.

Therefore

Our verse starts with the word "therefore" and when you see a "therefore" in Scripture you should ask what is it there for!

The therefore point back to the section we saw last week on seek and ye shall find and about God giving good gifts to His Children. So what is the connection? How is the goodness of God meeting our needs connected to the Golden Rule? If God gives to those who ask, and if God helps those who seek to find, and if God opens doors when people knock and if God gives good gifts to people - then how should we act? The answer is obvious!

God's goodness is connected to God's sense of justice. God wants to bless us and to answer our prayers and to pour out his love. God desires to give good gifts to His children. And if His children are living by the Golden Rule then He is very happy to bless them. But if we are being mean and selfish then God withholds His blessings until we learn to use them better.

If we want God to meet our needs and give us our desires, then we should meet other people's needs and give them their desires - within our capacity to do so. God wants us to be channels of His blessings. Selfishness blocks the channel. The selfish person receives but does not give out. They are like a blocked sink. It soon fills up and God turns off the taps of Heaven. And the living water soon goes rancid and revolting because it is stagnant in our souls. When you start giving and being a blessing then you “unblock the sink” and the water can flow out and God can turn the taps on again and fill your life with blessings.

The "therefore" tells us that we do not just live as recipients of blessing. We have to be a blessing as well. If we get our prayers answered, then we need to also be the answer to other people's prayers. This applies particularly to those closest to us:

1 Peter 3:7 HCSB Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as co-heirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

Thus a rude husband who does not care about his wife's needs, will not get his prayers answered. If you do not meet the desires of those closest to you, then God will not meet your desires.

People who ant to live a golden life, should live by the Golden Rule.

Self-centered, selfish materialistic people simply cannot have good spiritual lives. It is utterly impossible. In a needy world selfishness is a form of cruelty and God does not bless cruelty.

James 5:1-6 HCSB Come now, you rich people! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you. (2) Your wealth is ruined: your clothes are moth-eaten; (3) your silver and gold are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You stored up treasure in the last days! (4) Look! The pay that you withheld from the workers who reaped your fields cries out, and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. (5) You have lived luxuriously on the land and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. (6) You have condemned--you have murdered--the righteous man; he does not resist you.

Amos 4:1-2 HCSB Listen to this message, you cows of Bashan who are on the hill of Samaria, women who oppress the poor and crush the needy, who say to their husbands, "Bring us something to drink." (2) The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: Look, the days are coming when you will be taken away with hooks, every last one of you with fishhooks.

Whatever You Want Men To Do To You

The Greek behind the first part of this simple phrase is probably best translated All, whatsoever you wish and hope for. It covers every desire and every act of the will, and is extremely general. “Whatever you want” covers every legitimate desire of human nature.

It is the simplest and most complete ethical code ever developed. Simply use your own desires as the yardstick for how to treat others.

You do not need to be a theologian to live by the Golden Rule. You do not even need to have much empathy or understanding of others, all you need to know is what you yourself would want done in exactly the same situation.

Some people might say “I don't want anyone to do anything for me, I will look after myself thank you.” Does that mean that you never want appreciation or help with the washing up, or fairness in the courts? No man is an island, we all need others, and we are all needed by others.

Now this obviously only applies to normal legitimate needs. The needs of a masochist who wants to be beaten with a whip, do not mean he should go around beating other people with a whip. Some people have pathological needs and addictions but Jesus is obviously not talking about those here.

This may include things like a need for autonomy, space, and a need for privacy, so that sometimes the best things you can do is to leave a person to sort things out themselves. If you always do your kid's homework they may not grow up to be good scholars and clear thinkers. We have to factor in some fairly complex long-term needs into the equation.

For years the Australian Aboriginals have been given a lot of money without having to work. They could just sit at home and get $50,000 a year. Last week this was phased out so they now need to do some community work for their welfare - and everyone is happy. The Aboriginals are actually glad of the change and being valued as people capable of doing useful work. Few people really want to be on the end of the hand-out mentality with the exception in a short-term crisis.

Children need the security of discipline and clear rules. Most kids actually want parents to be firm with them. There is also a strong human need for justice and law and order and even criminals want to live in an honest society.

So our needs are desires are the starting point for our ethics. All you have to do to be a good human being is to know what you want, then do that exact same thing for other people. The opposite of the Golden Rule is narcissism, people who love themselves bu do not care about how other people feel. They think “I am the only real person in the Universe, everyone else just exists to meet my needs and when they cease meeting my needs they can be disposed of”. Such people never put themselves in someone else's shoes nor do they consider someone else's emotional pain.

A close cousin of narcissism is elitism. Elitism says “I am superior and they are inferior , so I deserve much more than they do.” Finally there is arrogance: “I am right and they are wrong so I can treat them in an inhuman fashion.” These three attitudes of narcissism, elitism and arrogance lie behind most of man's inhumanity to man. Slavery is impossible if we treat others the way we would want to be treated, so is torture, sexual exploitation, sweatshops, and the like. If the whole world is just like me then it should have the same rights and blessings that I have and I cannot deny this to any human being.

Do Also To Them

The next part of the verse is do also to them - and commands us to take positive action of some kind. Christianity is a positive faith and positive faith always is translated into positive action. Bible-believing Christians do not sit around in a mystical trance ignoring all the world around them. Bible-believing Christians know their God, and are strong people who take action to change their world.

Daniel 11:32 HCSB With flattery he will corrupt those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will be strong and take action.

Christianity is not a private religion nor is it a mere collection of personal opinions about existential and philosophical matters or a static performance of traditional rituals. Christianity is a lifestyle, a set of commandments for living and a spiritual method for transforming society. They fully understood this in the early church under the leadership of the apostles:

Acts 2:41-47 HCSB So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. (42) And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. (43) Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. (44) Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. (45) So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. (46) And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, (47) praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.

Acts 4:31-37 HCSB When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God's message with boldness. (32) Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. (33) And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. (34) For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, (35) and laid them at the apostles' feet. This was then distributed to each person as anyone had a need. (36) Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, whom the apostles named Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, (37) sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Acts 9:36-42 HCSB In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. She was always doing good works and acts of charity. (37) In those days she became sick and died. After washing her, they placed her in a room upstairs. (38) Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples heard that Peter was there and sent two men to him who begged him, "Don't delay in coming with us." (39) So Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them. (40) Then Peter sent them all out of the room. He knelt down, prayed, and turning toward the body said, "Tabitha, get up!" She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. (41) He gave her his hand and helped her stand up. Then he called the saints and widows and presented her alive. (42) This became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

Acts 11:27-30 HCSB In those days some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. (28) Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine throughout the Roman world. This took place during the time of Claudius. (29) So each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea. (30) This they did, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul.

The believers understood the need of doing good to others. Everyone was doing good of some kind - from the humble Dorcas who made clothes for widows through to Barnabas who sold land and donated the proceeds to the church.

Everyone recognized each other as equally precious children of God though they may have differing roles in the body of Christ. This basic equality of all Christians was the reason for the financial aid that was practiced:

2 Corinthians 8:9-15 HCSB (9) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: although He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich. (10) Now I am giving an opinion on this because it is profitable for you, who a year ago began not only to do something but also to desire it. (11) But now finish the task as well, that just as there was eagerness to desire it, so there may also be a completion from what you have. (12) For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. (13) It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality-- (14) at the present time your surplus is available for their need, so that their abundance may also become available for your need, that there may be equality. (15) As it has been written: The person who gathered much did not have too much, and the person who gathered little did not have too little.

Now I am not saying that we all have to go and live in a Christian commune. Mostly Christians are called to bloom where they are planted, in whatever role in life they are called to. But I am saying that Christians need to make a life-long habit of doing good according to the Golden Rule.

Thus the Golden Rule requires four changes to most people's lifestyles:

  1. NOTICE the situation, observe the human needs in your environment

  2. THINK - what would I need in that same situation
  3. PAUSE - from your own agenda
  4. GO - into action on behalf of that person.

For instance, you are leaving the supermarket and you see a lady with three small children and a huge load of shopping struggling to get out the door. First you notice the situation and allow it to register in you, then you think “what would I want someone to do for me in this situation”, then you pause from your own agenda of heading to your car, and then you ask “'Ma'am may I help take your groceries to your car.” If the lady says “Yes” then you can give her assistance.

A Biblical example is the Good Samaritan:

Luke 10:30-35 HCSB Jesus took up the question and said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. (31) A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32) In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (33) But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. (34) He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (35) The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him. When I come back I'll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.'

The Good Samaritan noticed the man in pain, he then worked out how to treat the man as he himself would like to be treated, then he paused his own travel agenda, got off his donkey, put the injured man on it and went into action on the injured man's behalf. The Good Samaritan is a great example of the Golden Rule in action.

The Golden Rule is meant to build golden churches where people love one another from the heart. Nothing is worse than to go to a church that ignores you as a person and which does not care about your needs. Such a place is simply a religious theatre and is not a biblical NT church! Now no church does this perfectly because no church is full of perfect people. Certainly the pastor and the elders are the primary examples of love and care but we all need to do our part. There are thirty-three or so “one another” commands in the Bible, these commands cover what we do to each other and are for every church member to put into practice - love one another, encourage one another, be considerate to one another etc. You don't have to be in the ministry to have a ministry. If you want to have a ministry that changes lives then start consciously and deliberately living by the Golden Rule!

For This Is The Law And The Prophets

The whole New Testament tells us our Christian duty all comes down to just one thing - the Golden Rule of loving our neighbor as yourself:

Mark 12:28-31 HCSB One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" (29) "This is the most important," Jesus answered: Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, The Lord is One. (30) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (31) "The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."

Romans 13:8-10 HCSB Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (9) The commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment--all are summed up by this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (10) Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

1 John 3:21-24 HCSB Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us we have confidence before God, (22) and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight. (23) Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us. (24) The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us.

The whole Bible is summed up in the Golden Rule. Love is the fulfillment of the Law. If you love people as you love yourself you will not murder them, or steal from them, or disrespect them, or lie about them in court or sleep with their wives or covet their goods. You do not need Ten Commandments or 613 regulations from Moses. Instead you need just one - the Golden Rule. If you believe in Jesus and live by this commandment you will be doing all that God ever wants and God will bless you and will answer your prayers.

It is a very nonreligious rule. You don't have to go to a Temple or make complicated sacrifices. That has all been fulfilled by Jesus Christ. You just have to do one thing - love your neighbor as yourself, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want to know how good a Christian you are just use the Golden Rule as the measuring rod. How are you going at showing practical love to your friends and family and coworkers and church members!

Conclusion

The Golden Rule asks us to be a blessing, an active practical real blessing to the people in our lives, doing to them the exact same things we would like done for ourselves. The Golden Rule invites us to become part of a community of mutual blessing where we do good to others and they in turn do good to us. God is watching us, and listening to us, and observing our attitudes and actions. When He sees us living by the Golden Rule then He blesses us, answers our prayers and opens the windows of Heaven for us. Remember God treats us the exact same way that we treat others, so if we are good to other people, then God will be good to us and - even more so because He has more power to bless than we can ever imagine!

God is preparing us to be part of an eternal community of love and blessing in Heaven. He is making us into people who can give and receive love in large quantities. Love is the true measure of the Christian. How wide and deep and high and long is your love for God and your love for people? Do you treat other people as you would like to be treated or are you impatient, judgmental and critical? The time has come to think about your Christian life and to answer one question:

Is the love of Jesus Christ evident in my lifestyle as I love my neighbor as myself and live by the Golden Rule?


This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.