The Golden Rule
"Therefore 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
The "therefore" points back to the foregoing section of our Lord's sermon (Mat. 7:7-11), and it intimates three things:
First, that privileges and duties must not be separated: blessing from God, is designed to enable us the better to discharge our responsibilities unto men.
Second, otherwise our future praying will be hindered: "We cannot expect to receive good things from God—if we do not fair things and that which is lovely and of good report among men. We must not only be devout, but honest—else our devotion is but hypocrisy" (Matthew Henry, 1662-1714).
Third, much divine grace is required by us in order to our performing the duty here enjoined; and such must be sought diligently and daily at the Throne of Grace.
In what follows that opening, "therefore," our Lord has given us a brief but comprehensive rule for the regulating of our conduct unto our fellows, the carrying out of which plays no small part in evidencing the genuineness of our profession and the suitable adorning of the same. That golden rule embodies in an abridged form, the teaching of the Law and the Prophets on this subject, and proves that Christianity enforces their requirements.
"Therefore in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." Matthew 7:12 There is a special need to press this injunction upon God's people today. This is a generation which is characterized by gross selfishness, when the law of decency has been displaced by the lawlessness of the savage, when good manners are a thing of the past, when human beings conduct themselves more like hogs at the trough, or hungry dogs fighting for a bone! There is no regard for the rights of others, and therefore, no concern for the comforts of others. It is every man for himself, whether scrambling into a train or bus, or turning on his radio full blast without any consideration for his neighbors.
In the past, it was customary for those who preached or wrote on this text to say, The rule by which too many act is, "Do unto others—AS they do unto you." But this generation has sunk lower than that: no matter what consideration be shown them, they exercise none unto their fellows. Courtesy is answered by rudeness; kindness, by baseness. If you treat people decently and generously, they take a despicable advantage of what they regard as weakness.
Now, God's people are in real danger of being corrupted by the evils to which we have just alluded. Unless they are very much on their guard, they will quickly become infected by the same spirit, the more so as the multitude of empty professors all around them are becoming increasingly conformed to the wicked world. When church members are so boorish and overbearing, walking roughshod over others, indifferent to what annoyance and discomfort they cause their neighbors, the young Christian is apt to think, "What is the use of my making a stand for that which is right and proper?"
But that is a temptation from the devil, which must be steadfastly resisted. "You shall not follow a multitude to do evil" (Exo 23:2); their carelessness and callousness, is no reason why you should be unconcerned as to what inconvenience and distress your selfish conduct may inflict upon others. "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom 14:12); meanwhile, Christ requires His disciples to conform to the standard He has given them, regulate their lives by this golden precept, and be identifiable by their meekness, modesty, gentleness, and righteousness.
This is a rule which is witnessed to in every man's heart. Each normal person has enough regard for himself that he quickly feels an injury and censures the one who has wronged him. He has, therefore, but to apply this principle to his own actions, and the righteousness of it at once appears. Thus, none can plead ignorance, nor is thoughtlessness any valid excuse. Are you pleased when hearing from old friends? Then fail not to write unto them. Are you inconvenienced when someone fails to return an article you have loaned them? Then make conscience of promptly returning anything—be it but a book—which you have borrowed. Are you displeased when others are dilatory in paying what they owe you? Then see to it you settle all your bills promptly. Are you distressed when your nerves are shocked and your rest disturbed by the selfish inconsideration of other tenants in the same house, or by your neighbors? Then cease banging doors yourself; and if you have children or a dog, do not allow them to be a nuisance to others. If someone be ill in the next house, or has to get his sleep during the day, disturb him not.
If spirituality is not practical—it is worthless. Wherever vital godliness is in a healthy state, its possessor will be duly influenced in all his relations; and he will seek faithfully to discharge every duty which he owes, not only unto God, but to his fellow men also. Grace teaches its subjects to "live soberly [self-ward], righteously [manward], and godly [Christward] in this present world" (Ti 2:12). The Christian should be as ready to do good—as to receive good.
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" (Mat 7:12). Here is a comprehensive precept which covers the whole of our obligations unto our fellows. Negatively, refrain from injuring any; positively, seek to do good unto all. Be fair and just, honorable and honest, in all your dealings. Though others are not so, perform your duty. We must not be forward in standing up for our own rights and backward in considering those of others. If you are hurt when others slight, speak evil of, or oppress you—see that you are innocent of such sins. Treat others with the same consideration, courtesy, and kindness—as you wish to receive from them. Such deportment must be rendered not merely as a "mark of good breeding," but as an act of obedience to God. "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (Eph 5:21) is the grand principle which should ever move us.
Moreover, it is to be steadily borne in mind that this rule is to regulate the inward man, as well as the outward. The whole of God's Law is "spiritual" (Rom 7:14), and requires conformity of heart unto its statutes. This golden rule is no exception: it is to regulate our affections, as well as our actions. It prohibits secret grudgings and enmity against our fellows, and enjoins good will and benevolence. Vain is our profession that we love God, if our actions evince that we hate our fellow creatures.
It should also be pointed out that this rule includes the right of private judgment. If you maintain that you are entitled to have your own political views—or, what is far more important, to form your own opinion of what the Bible teaches on any subject of which it treats—then accord unto everyone else the same privilege. Differences of opinion are certain to arise, but they never justify your cherishing a bitter spirit, imputing unworthy motives unto, or acting harshly toward, those who differ from you.
We doubt not that many of our readers have, by divine grace, sincerely endeavored to regulate their conduct by this rule, yes, have put the interests and welfare of others before their own; and in them, Christ is glorified. But we fear there is likely to be quite a number—even of those who receive this magazine—who need to take this message to heart, humbly confess to God their failures thereon, and definitely seek grace to cultivate a more unselfish spirit and a greater concern for the well-being and comfort of those with whom they have to do.
This precept is many-sided in its application. If you desire others to sympathize with you while in trouble, then see to it that you "weep with those who weep" (Rom 12:15). If you covet the prayers of your brethren, be diligent in interceding for them.