For quite some time I’ve wanted to write a post about the Golden Rule, but it never seems to get written. The idea has been on my mind again lately. Perhaps it’s because I’ve peeked ahead to Matthew 7 that we will be covering in church for the next two Sundays to finish up a sermon series on the essential Jesus. It is in this portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that He shares the Golden Rule. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (NIV).
It is often said that the Golden Rule is part of every major religion, but that really isn’t true. Every major religion or philosophy (and probably most minor religions) does have some form of a rule of reciprocity of treatment, but many times it is in the negative form, which is sometimes called the Silver Rule. Just a few of such “rules” are:
- Judaism – “Do to no one what you yourself dislike.” —Tobit 4:15
- Buddhism – “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” —Udanavarga 5:18
- Bahá’í Faith – “Beware lest ye harm any soul, or make any heart to sorrow; lest ye wound any man with your words, be he known to you or a stranger, be he friend or foe.” —`Abdu’l-Bahá
- Confucianism – “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” – Confucius
- Ancient Greece – “Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.” – Pittacus; and “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.” – Isocrates
- Hinduism – “One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.” —Brihaspati, Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva, Section CXIII, Verse 8)
- Platonism – “One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him.” —Plato’s
- Scientology – “Thus today we have two golden rules for happiness: 1. Be able to experience anything; and 2. Cause only those things which others are able to experience easily.” —Scientology: A New Slant on Life, Two Rules for Happy Living
- Wicca – “These eight words the Rede fulfill, ‘an ye harm none do as ye will.” —The Wiccan Rede
While each of these rules are all well and good in that they call on their followers to not do any harm to others. But the Golden Rule that Jesus taught was much different. The Golden Rule calls for us to be proactive in our treatment of others. Jesus calls us to do good, not simply to refrain from doing wrong.
The Silver Rule looks like people going about their own business with little concern for others, except to make sure one’s actions don’t actively harm someone else.
The Golden Rule, on the other hand, looks like people going out of their way to feed the hungry, to provide shelter for the homeless, to encourage those in despair, to visit the lonely. The Golden Rule causes me to think, “If I was hungry and didn’t know where my next meal was going to come from, what would I want others to do for me?” And would I only want those I knew well to help, or if there were only strangers around would I want them to help so I wouldn’t starve? What I would want those strangers to do to help me is what I need to do for others, whether I know them or not.
The Golden Rule is proactive. When we follow it, we look far and wide for those in need and do what we can to help them, even if it is not convenient for us.
The Silver Rule is all well and good, but the Golden Rule is so much more. It is what Jesus did for us. He looked far and wide, and He found that we were lost and in need of a Savior. He saw that we owed a debt of sin that we could not pay, and He paid it. He saw that we were in bondage and in need of redemption, and He redeemed us. He saw that we were alone and in need of love, and He loved us.
Let us follow Jesus’ lead and do unto according to the Golden Rule.