The Golden Rule

By Ron Halbrook

The Golden Rule is the royal law of the kingdom of heaven in regard to our conduct toward our fellow man. Jesus Christ teaches us to love our neighbor as our self in deed and action.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets (Matt. 7:12).

This statement appears in the Sermon on the Mount, a sermon designed to prepare the human heart for the kingdom of heaven (3:2; 4:17; 5:1-3). “The law and the prophets” promised the coming of God’s kingdom in which love, joy, peace, and righteousness would rule the hearts of men (Isa. 11). Christ laid the groundwork for that kingdom during his personal ministry and then established it through his Apostles in the first century A.D. (Mk. 9:1; Col. 1:13). The gospel of Christ still calls men and women into that kingdom today.

Matthew 7:1-12 gives instructions to people who seek the kingdom of God. We must not be hypocritical judges, glossing over our own sins while viciously attacking the sins of others. “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (vv. 1-5). If we correct our own sins, we are able to truly help other people correct their lives. In sharing the good news of God’s kingdom, we also must judge or discern between good and honest hearts on the one hand, and dishonest and hardened hearts on the other hand. Jesus likens the latter group to “dogs” and “swine” who cannot see the true value of sacred and holy things (v. 6). When people are offended and enraged by the truth, we do not try to force it on them or change it to please them. Jesus said to “shake off the dust of your feet” and go to others (10:14).

Those who are truly searching for the kingdom of heaven can find it. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” God opens the door of truth to those who are searching for him, just as we give our children whatever they need, when they ask us for help (7:7-11). Jesus says that those who seek God’s kingdom must embrace this rule of conduct: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”

The Golden Rule is clear. It does not say, “Do not unto others what you do not wish them to do unto you.” That is passive, not active, and much too narrow. Jesus did not say, “Do unto others as they do unto you.” That would bring us down to the level of our lowest and meanest enemies. The Golden Rule is not, “Do unto others before they do unto you.” That is an excuse to lie, cheat, and steal in the business world. Christ did not teach, “Do unto others when they do unto you,” thus limiting our love to those who do something for us first. Nor did Jesus say, “Do unto some others as you would have them do unto you,” giving a rule of partiality and prejudice.

The Golden Rule says, do! It is active and personal to each one of us. Unto others! This is not a mere theory or philosophy but is an obligation toward all men. We are to be unselfish, striving to help our fellow men in both physical and spiritual needs. As! Just as, exactly as. You would have them do unto you! They may never have done so to us, may not be doing so now, and may never do as they should, but we are to be considerate and helpful to others nonetheless.

Much of the Sermon on the Mount is summed up in the Golden Rule. This royal law applies in the local church, in our families, at work, at school, in our neighborhood, and in the community. It makes us more like God and blesses everyone who lives by it. If you are seeking the kingdom of heaven and willing to embrace the Golden Rule, come to Christ. By faith in him repent of your sins, confess him as God’s Son, and be baptized into him (Gal. 3:26-27).

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 5, p. 143
March 7, 1991