The Gospel of Matthew: The Golden Rule

12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 (ESV)

“I cannot remember a time when the Golden Rule was not my motto and precept, the torch that guided my footsteps.” James Cash Penney

“Let everyone regulate his conduct… by the golden rule of doing to others as in similar circumstances we would have them do to us, and the path of duty will be clear before him.” William Wilberforce

“In nearly every religion I am aware of, there is a variation of the golden rule. And even for the non-religious, it is a tenet of people who believe in humanistic principles.” Hillary Clinton

“I believe in the Golden Rule – The Man with the Gold…Rules.” Mr. T

People in all walks of life have an opinion of what is called The Golden Rule. Politicians, entertainers, and those in business ascribe to follow these words from Jesus; or a variation of the same. We may scratch our heads in wonder when we consider the life, and lifestyle, of these quoted individuals. We may question if they truly understand Jesus’ words. Regardless if they understand, they do have an opinion on today’s text.

The principle of reciprocation, giving in return, was often phrased negatively in the ancient world. Jesus made it a positive declaration. Believers in Christ are to proactively do for others what they would like others to do for them. There is no guarantee that others will respond in like manner, and Jesus never promised that this would happen. What He did say was that this behavior by believers fulfilled the spirit and teaching of the Old Testament of how God’s covenant people should live.

The Apostle Paul had similar sentiments in his epistles to the church in Ephesus and the Rome. Consider the following texts.

Ephesians 4:31–32 (ESV) – 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  

Romans 12:14–21 (ESV) – 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Also consider what the Apostle Peter wrote to the exiled Christians. The following text is from his first epistle.

1 Peter 3:8–9 (ESV) – Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

I urge you to also recall what Jesus previously said in the Sermon on the Mount. It compliments today’s text.

Matthew 5:43–45 (ESV) says, 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

These are not moralistic principles based upon man’s works righteousness. Jesus’ words, and those by the apostles, reflect the ethic of godly people who God the Father has declared righteous by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. May people see this golden ethic in each of us.

Soli deo Gloria!  

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