The Golden Rule
J. R. Miller, 1909
When someone asked Raphael how he made his wonderful pictures, he replied, "I dream dreams and I see visions—and then I paint my dreams and visions." The teachings of Christ, if reverently received, fill our mind with dreams and visions of spiritual beauty. But there is something we must do if we would receive from these teachings the good they are intended to impart—we must get them wrought into our own life.
The lesson on judging is not an easy one. We may as well confess that most of us are quite prone to the fault which is here reproved. Of course, the teaching is not that we should never have any opinions concerning the actions of others—we cannot avoid having judgments either of approval or disapproval. It is not understood either that we shall never express condemnation of the acts of others; we are required to censure men's evil courses. A little later in this same Sermon on the Mount, Jesus bids His disciples beware of false prophets which come in sheep's clothing, while in reality they are ravenous wolves. It is not an easy-going acceptance of all sorts of people and behavior, which is taught. What we are forbidden to do is to be censorious. Rather, we are to treat others—as we would have them treat us.
There are reasons enough why we should not judge others. One is that it is not our duty. We are not our neighbor's judge. He does not have to answer to us. God is his Master, and to Him he must give account.
Another reason is that God is patient with men's faults, and we represent God. If he bears with a man's shortcomings, surely we should do so, too. He is patient with people in their indifference to Him, in their disobedience, in their selfishness. Should we be more exacting with others than God is? Should we exercise severity—where He shows leniency?
Another reason we should not judge others is because we cannot do it fairly. We see but the surface of people's lives. We do not know what has been the cause of the disagreeable features, the faults, we see in them. Perhaps if we knew all—we would praise, where we now condemn. A young man was blamed by his fellow clerks for what they called his stinginess. He did not spend money as they did. They did not know that an invalid sister in another part of the country, shut away in her room, with none but her brother to care for her, received nearly all of his monthly salary!
Another reason for not judging others, is that we have faults of our own—which should make us silent about the failings of others. When we glibly condemn our neighbor's shortcomings, we assume that we ourselves are without shortcomings. But quite likely we have a beam in our own eye—at the very time we are pointing out to our brother the mote in his eye. A mote is a mere speck; a beam is a great log. The meaning is, that we make more of a little speck we see on another's life or in his conduct—than we make of a very large fault in ourselves. Our first business certainly is with ourselves. We shall not have to answer for our brother's faults—but we must answer for our own. It is not our business to look after his blots and blunders—but we must look after our own. We should be severe in dealing with our own faults—and then we will be able to help in curing the faults of others.
Another reason against judging, is that the law of love requires us to look charitably at the faults and sins of others. "Love covers a multitude of sins" (see 1 Peter 4:8). An artist placed his friend in the chair in such a position, that the blemish on one side of his face would not show in the picture. That is the way love prompts us to see our friends and neighbors, and show them to others—exhibiting the noble things in them—and throwing a veil over their defects.
Still another reason for not judging others, is that when we do, we are setting a standard for the judging of ourselves. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others—you will be judged." If you criticize others—you must expect them to criticize you, and they will. Those who deal gently with the acts of others—may expect gentle treatment by others in return. People will give back to you—exactly what you give to them.
The Master has more to say here about prayer. The promise is very large. "Ask—and it shall be given you." Thus our Father throws wide open the doors of all His treasure houses! There seems to be nothing of all His vast possessions, which He is not ready to give His children for the asking. "All things are yours, and you are Christ's" (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). We need not try to trim down the promise, and yet we must read into it other teachings about prayer. Elsewhere we are taught that in all our praying we must say, "May Your will be done" (6:10). That is, we must submit all our requests to God's love and wisdom. We do not know what things will really be blessings to us. What would not be—our Father will withhold.
We get an important lesson here, too, on the manner of prayer, in the words "ask," "seek," "knock." They teach importunity and growing earnestness. Much that is called praying is not worthy of the name—is not praying at all. We have no burning desire, and there is neither importunity nor intensity in our asking. What did you pray for this morning? Do you even remember?
The Father-heart of God is unveiled in the words about bread and a stone; a fish and a serpent. It is far more likely to be the other way, however—what we ask would be a stone to us, would not be a blessing; and God, knowing what we really need, gives us a loaf instead of the stone we cried for! We know certainly that our Father is kinder to His children, than earthly parents are to theirs—as much kinder as His love and His ability to give is greater than the largest human love and ability. Yet we must emphasize the words "ask," "every one who asks," etc. Some people never ask—and then wonder why they do not receive. Then, we must ask with the highest motives. "You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3). Selfishness in prayer gets no answer.
The Golden Rule, as it is called, is wonderfully comprehensive. It bids us to consider the interests of others, as well as of ourselves. It bids us to set our neighbor alongside of ourselves and think of him as having the same rights we have, and requiring from us the same fairness of treatment that we give to ourselves. It is in effect a practical way of putting the command, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18). It gives us a standard by which to test all our motives and all our conduct bearing on others. We are at once in thought to change places with the person toward who duty is to be determined, and ask: "If he were where I am—and I were where he is—how would I want him to treat me in this case?"
The application of this rule would instantly put a stop to all rash, hasty actions, for it commands us to consider our neighbor and question our own heart before doing anything. It would slay all selfishness, for it compels us to regard our neighbor's rights and interests in the matter, as precisely equal to our own. It leads us to honor others, for it puts us and them on the same platform, as equal before God, and to be equal, too, before our own eyes. The true application of this rule—would put a stop to all injustice and wrong, for none of us would do injustice or wrong to ourselves, and we are to treat our neighbor precisely as if he were ourselves. It would lead us to seek the highest good of all other men, even the lowliest and the humblest—for we surely would like all men to seek our good.
The thorough applying of the Golden Rule, would end all conflict between labor and management, for it would give the employer a deep, loving interest in the men he employs and lead him to think of their good in all ways. At the same time it would give to every employee a desire for the prosperity of his employer and an interest in his business. It would put an end to all quarreling and strife in families, in communities, among nations. The perfect working of this rule everywhere would make heaven, for the will of God would then be done on earth as it is in heaven!