The Golden Rule: Treat Others the Way You Want to be Treated

The golden rule, although existing in many cultures globally, is a biblical principle that has been passed down through generations. Certainly, my parents faithfully attempted to instill this foundational way of thinking and behaving into my conduct.

The golden rule points us to see others with value. Speaking the golden rule is easy; remembering it during critical moments, a little more difficult; harder still is consistently living by it.

Self Assessment

Matthew, the former tax collector, writes of the need for such a principle. Few people, now or then, admire those who work for the tax department, enforcing governmental laws of personal and corporate taxation. In Matthew’s day, tax collectors were considered traitors and thieves — mostly for good reason. Before Matthew was introduced to Jesus, his barometer scale of compassion probably ranked quite low. Filling his own coffers was one of his highest priorities, and he didn’t care who he stepped on to do it.

“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

When he met Jesus, however, his former mindset did an about-turn. He began to view those around him not for temporary benefit but from an eternal perspective. He also knew such a change of thinking came only through divine intervention. 

In the preceding verses, Matthew addressed the need for taking the plank out of my own eyes (vs 5). It amazes me how blatantly obvious the smallest failures of others appear while living ignorant of my own overbearing and incredibly dysfunctional behavioral patterns.

God forbid that we ignore the pain we see others suffering through. Before jumping into action, he challenges us to assume the responsibility of seriously assessing ourselves. Then Matthew calls us to do whatever is necessary to effectively help others. 

“. . . first take the plank out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to remove
the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:5

Planks hurt! Specks hurt too! Oh how we need each other to help us see clearly.

God First

What wisdom Matthew has acquired in his short time with the Master! 

He points our attention to the loving Father. I know this is a long passage, but every word is worthy of our attention. 

Ask, and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Matthew 7:7-11

If we stop reading here, we easily assume that it is a one-way channel of blessing upon blessing coming toward us. We could stand at the door of prayer asking, seeking and knocking for more in our give-me-bags to satisfy our selfish desires and satiate our lustful appetites for the good things God offers. 

This, however, is the preamble for the real intent, as an appetizer to the full meal, of Matthew’s message. In short, he says, “Look, everyone! Look how loving and gracious our Father is! Does His mercy ever end? Will He ever shortchange you? Does He treat you carelessly?”

Golden Rule

If there are three words that I continually stumble upon as I’m reading the Bible, it is those little words “how much more.” No matter how generous, loving, good and gracious we believe God to be, He is so much more. Matthew says, “God is our pattern. The way He treats us has become the standard by which we treat all others.” 

“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

That’s it! The golden rule capsulizes everything God has written. This one principle satisfies everything else completely. “In everything,” in every way, to all people, treat them as God treats us.

Let’s get real! When I look at the level of this standard, I feel like I’m standing under a bar hanging 50 feet above my head with no means of reaching it. My failed attempts, through 67 years, only proves my powerlessness to achieve such a high mark. 

Who will help? How will I ever attain it? Through the grace of God alone — day by day asking Him to intervene in my life, moment by moment trusting Him, time and time again seeking forgiveness for my failure.

“As You Have Done”

Matthew knows full well the intervention of God that must occur for us to hold such high conduct. He isn’t presenting something new. Hundred’s of years prior, Obadiah gave a warning to Israel’s enemies, 

“. . . As you have done, it will be done to you;
your deeds will return upon your own head.”
Obadiah 1:15

Israel’s enemies were guilty of “gloating” over them in their “misfortune,” “rejoicing” when “destruction” hit, and “boasting” when they were in trouble. Doing the wrong thing comes easy; doing the right thing takes practice and effort.

Sometimes, we do pretty good at following the golden rule principle with our friends. The real litmus test is how we respond to our enemies. Do we nurse a twisted gratification when they stumble and fall or when they are down and out?

My parents would often add, “Don’t kick someone when they’re down!” In other words, the golden rule includes lending a helping hand to those we least want to help, being kind to those who have treated us harshly, and refusing to judge those who have cast the broad net of judgment our way. 

God reminds us through Obadiah that the same portion we so generously give to others, either good or evil, will return to us. 

Sowing and Reaping

What a marvelous God we serve. God  refuses to lower the bar to meet our inadequacies. He sets the bar high, then lifts us over it. He presents the standard, then gives us everything we need to accomplish it.

“…I will not leave you helpless
nor forsake nor let you down,
nor relax my hold on you.
Assuredly not!”
Hebrews 13:5 AMP

We don’t struggle alone to fulfill God’s mandate. The beauty and simplicity of the golden rule unfolds like a delicate flower, as we rest and trust in God to guide and help us. What we sow we will reap.

Paul writes to the Galatians, 

“Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked.
A man reaps what he sows. . .
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up.”
Galatians 6:7-9

So friends, let’s keep going. Keep reaching. Keep aiming. We will attain the reward of living for and giving to others according to the golden rule. Let’s not give up! Reward may seem a long way off, but it might be sooner than we think.

Sowing and Reaping – Whether Intentional and Random Wisdom is Needed!

Sowing & Reaping

Everything we say and do is investment deposited in the lives of others. The outcome will always be a reflection of the seeds sown whether intentional or random. Let us carefully consider the principle of sowing and reaping approaching it with wisdom.

Kinds of Seeds

For much of my life I paid little attention to this process. The seeds I was sowing were not always beneficial! A quick cutting word, impatience, sarcasm, selfish use of resources and relationships. My list of less than desirable seed is longer than I would like to include.

I’m ashamed to say that it took me too long to see the connection between my words and actions with the resulting outcomes. By then I had a lot of unfavourable “weeds” to pull and burn from my life. Unfortunately, my poor seed choices effected not just me but everyone in my life!

Weeds

Though I have been diligent in recent years, that infestation of bad habits and patterns is not easy to uproot!

“My experience shows that those
who plant trouble and cultivate evil
will harvest the same.”
Job 4:8

True Illustration

“Do not be deceived:
God is not mocked, for whatever one sows,
that will he also reap.”
Galatians 6:7

In 1874 a member of the New York State Prison Board noticed that six members of the same family were incarcerated at the same time. The board did some research tracing the family line back to an ancestor born in 1720. He was considered lazy and godless, an alcoholic of “low moral character”. Marrying a woman who was much like himself, they had six daughters and two sons.

Of the approximately 1,200 descendants of this couple who were alive by 1874:

  • 310 were homeless
  • 160 were prostitutes
  • 180 suffered from drug or alcohol abuse
  • 150 were criminals who spent time in prison, including seven for murder

To top it off the state had spent $1.5 million to care for this line of descendants, and non had made a significant contribution to society.

Reaping Destruction

The Contrast

But the opposite is also true!

“But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations
on those who love me and
obey my commands.”
Exodus 20:6

In contrast, another family who lived in the same era was studied. This second family study began with the famous preacher Jonathan Edwards, who was born in 1703. He lived a life of strong moral values and became a minister and a dedicated family man.

He married Sarah who shared his values; together they had 11 children. Eventually, Jonathan Edwards became the president of Princeton University. Here is what researchers discovered about the approximately 1,400 descendants of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards by 1874:

  • 13 were college presidents
  • 65 were college professors
  • 100 were attorneys
  • 32 were state judges
  • 85 were authors of classic books
  • 66 were physicians
  • 80 held political offices including three state governors
  • 3 were state senators
  • 1 became vice president of the United States

(Taken from 2 Equals 1, Married for Life Course)

Sowing The Word

“It is the same with my word. I send it out,
and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”
Isaiah 55:10-11

Wise Planting

A wise person plants the best quality seed they have available – seed tested and chosen carefully.

You have heard me teach things
that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses.
Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people
who will be able to pass them on to others.”
2 Timothy 2:2

Paul is talking to Timothy reminding him of the investment of time and truth deposited into his own life. He challenges Timothy to be faithful and plant these same seeds into the lives of others, who will in turn invest into yet others.

Seed produces! The harvest, though not immediate or guaranteed, exceeds the measure invested. The process is be perpetual!

Sowing and Reaping

Consider these verses of sowing and reaping!

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.”
Psalm 126: 5

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.
At just the right time
we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
Galatians 6:9

Harvest of Love

I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
for now is the time to seek the LORD,
that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’
Hosea 10:12

It’s a New Day

No matter how much time is behind you or what your past has been. Today is a new day! It is never too late to begin to invest intentionally in your life and the lives of those around.

Even if there has been a season of discipline in your life, take hope!

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time,
but painful. Later on, however, 
It produces a harvest of righteousness and peace…”
Hebrews 12: 11

Don’t be discouraged by poor crops you may have reaped from in the past. There is better harvests awaiting you!

“Remember this – a farmer who plants only a few seeds
will get a small crop.
But the one who plants generously
will get a generous crop.”
2 Corinthians 9:6

From this day forward, begin a journey a sowing wisely and generously! Just wait and see what kind of abundant harvest awaits!

“… those who live to please the Spirit will
harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.”
Galatians 6:8

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