The Golden Rule


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

Structurally, the Sermon on the Mount is divisible into three
sections. Jesus
introduces the sermon in Matthew 5:1–16, describing the
characteristics of
true discipleship while calling us to preserve society as
the salt of the
earth and to show others the Father as the light of the
world. He gives final
warnings to those who will not heed His teaching in the sermon’s conclusion in

The second section, or main body, of
the Sermon on the Mount is very
well-defined (5:17–7:12). In both 5:17 and
7:12, our Lord refers specifically
to “the Law and the Prophets,” bracketing
all of the material in between these
verses and marking it off as a distinct
portion of teaching. Biblical scholars
call this an inclusio, a literary
device where the beginning and ending of a
unit of teaching mirror one
another. In between the brackets, a line of
thought is developed that fleshes
out what the brackets summarize. In this
case, 5:18–7:11 lays out many of the
specifics of life in God’s kingdom in
Christ, which fulfills the Law and the
Prophets (5:17). But when all is said
and done, living out the kingdom ethic
only involves doing unto our neighbors
as we would want to have done to us.
This is the end to which the Law and
Prophets direct us (7:12).

famous “Golden Rule” is not an entirely new teaching from the lips of
Jesus. Similar tenets are found in other religions. There is a story about the
famous first-century rabbi Hillel who verbalized the Golden Rule in
negative form when a pagan told the rabbi he would convert if he could
the Law summarized while he stood on one leg. Hillel said, “What is
hurtful to
you, do not do to others. This is the Torah, the rest is
commentary. Go and
learn it.”

We can keep the Golden Rule in its
negative form without lifting a finger. If
we do not want others to steal
from us, for example, we only need to refrain
from theft. But the positive
form is unknown prior to Jesus and is much more
demanding. Doing unto others
is a call to service. We want others to love us,
and so we must first love
them. We want to be prosperous, and thus we must
first share what we have.
The Golden Rule reveals that kingdom citizens put
others first, endeavoring
to love them as Christ has first loved us (1 John
4:7, 19).

Coram deo:
Living before the face of
John Calvin says, “All the
precepts [of the Mosaic law]…have a reference to
[the Golden Rule].” Even the
Old Testament laws that deal more directly with
God teach us to love our
neighbor. The law against idolatry, for example,
enjoins us to love others.
Clearly, it is not loving to lead others into false
worship and death through
our service to idols. As you study a particular
passage of Scripture, ask
yourself how it shows you to put others ahead of

For further

Ruth 4:1–12

The Bible in a year:

Joshua 1–2

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