Life Upside Down
The Golden Rule
Just south town about 61/2 miles is a business called Lakes Area Building Center. Most of you are familiar with this business which includes a lumberyard. Having driven by there many times, I noticed a square golden colored sign that says, “Golden Rule Lumber.” If you don’t have any concept of what the Golden Rule is, you might think it has something to do with lumber that has exactly right measurements, or something like that. However, most of us know what the Golden Rule is and thus we know this sign is saying something about what their customer service is like. The Golden rule is simply stated as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The concept is certainly simple, but when it comes to lumber yards that bear a sign like this, the customer enters with certain high expectations about their service. Will they treat me as their customer the same way they would want to be treated? There is a Golden Rule Lumberyard in Illinois that posts on their website what they believe it means to have a name like this for their business. This is what they say;
With more than 250 years of combined lumberyard experience, the people of Golden Rule Lumber and Rental are just that - professionals. They will help you through every step of your project - no matter the size or scale.
The staff at Golden Rule is deeply committed to the community. Locally owned and operated means that their success is tied to the success of the community.
Through the years, Golden Rule Lumber has evolved and grown to meet and exceed the needs of the Illinois Valley. Our core belief has remained the same – to provide the best service and quality products to the customer. Service and quality are the key. We go above and beyond all expectations.
Now whether they live up to their statement of service or not, the principle is simply this: “Treat others as you wish to be treated.” The oldest known use of the title “Golden Rule” as it applies to this principle was back in 1604, however, the principle itself goes back even to ancient Egypt. We find this principle in most religious writings throughout time. This principle can even be taken from the Hebrew texts of the Torah, like Leviticus 19:18:
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
So even though it has only been called the “Golden Rule” for about 400 years, the principle has been around for thousands of years. So why is this principle called, the “Golden Rule?” Whenever something is considered to have great value and is to be treasured, we often refer to it as “golden.” Thus, 400 years ago someone decided that this principle of how we treat people is of great value and should be treasured, thus calling it the “Golden Rule.” This is what we are talking about today. The “Golden Rule” as it is found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12.
In the context of our verse, Jesus has addressed many areas of living a life of faith before our God. He has stressed over and over that our actions need to come from a heart of love for God, not a heart of being seen as pious before others. In chapter 7, we have recently talked about what Jesus meant when He said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” How we should help others overcome sin in their lives, but first examine our heart as to what our motivation is for helping them see their sin. Are we being judgmental in showing ourselves as better than they are or are we truly concerned about the entrapment of sin in their life?
Jesus talked about allowing the pearl, which is the relationship we have with God, to be trampled under the foot of the unbeliever because we do not act like we should toward them. They see our life of faith as hypocritical and it is trampled in the mud. Then last week we talked about this very special relationship we have with our Heavenly Father. He is truly our good Father and as we spend time with Him, we begin to manifest His character in our lives before other people. With that immediate context in mind, Jesus says in 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.
This statement Jesus makes is what we have deemed as “The Golden Rule.” So, what does this mean to you and me as Christians? Is treating people the same way you want them to treat you, really of great importance in life? Let’s look more closely at this verse.
So whatever you wish that others would do to you
The verse begins with a conjunction “so” (οὖν). In the original language, it is a word used to show inference. It is introducing a logical result or inference from what precedes. We could also translate it as therefore or consequently. In other words, this statement we call the “Golden Rule” relates to everything Jesus has been trying to teach us about living out our faith in this world. And most recently, it is the character of our Heavenly Father being put on display in how we treat other people. Again, this is not a random snippet of information that is unrelated to what Jesus has been teaching us, rather it relates to all of it. Our vertical relationship with God impacts our horizontal relationships with people.
I have called that first phrase, “Our Desire.” “So, whatever you wish that others would do to you.” The word “wish,” (θέλω) tells us that what comes next is from a motive of desire. Now we wish or desire for a lot of things in life. But when we relate this to our interpersonal relationships, I would say that we want people to treat us properly. We want them to treat us with kindness, pleasantness, respect, and compassion.
We all know that there will be times when we need a splinter of sin removed from our eye. There will be times when we don’t exactly live like a Christian should. Not that we are living that way on purpose, it is just a part of our nature as sinners. But when we have times that like this in our lives, our desire is that people will not humiliate, mock, make fun, or degrade us. Though we know that we should be exhorted and encouraged to live rightly before the Lord, our desire would be that our brothers and sisters in Christ come alongside us in loving compassion, not to make us a spectacle for all to see.
There is something I want to point out here. Sometimes we want to relate this to just our brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words, how we desire other Christians treat us. But the word “others” is the Greek word ἄνθρωπος and is being used as a generic term for human beings. This means all human beings, not just other believers. We are talking about how we wish every person on this planet would treat us.
How do you want others in this world to treat you? When you do something well? When you do something stupid? When you get promoted at work? When you get fired from your job? When you become wealthy with this world’s goods? When you are poverty stricken? When you possess great beauty? When you feel as though you have no beauty at all? When you have great skill or accomplish great things? When you struggle to accomplish anything? When you have great athletic ability? When you are physically challenged with a disability?
The idea is simply this, no matter your lot in life, how would you want others to treat you in this world? Place yourself in the shoes of others and imagine how you would desire to be treated. This is probably the most important aspect of the “Golden Rule.” No matter your situation in life, how would you desire to be treated? Because until we understand what our desire would be in those circumstances, we have no way of moving on to the next step of our actions toward others. We need to focus on our desire for how we want others to treat us, then act that way toward others.
Do also to them
It matters how you treat people! It not only matters to them, but it matters to God. Why? As a person of faith, we are displaying the character of God toward others in how we treat them. Do we misrepresent the character of God in how we treat others? If so, our pearl is being trampled in the mud! This is probably one of the most practical things that can take place in our lives. Treat others the way we desire to be treated.
Let’s use a practical illustration. Have you ever said something about someone that was taken wrong? Maybe they didn’t understand the context of what you said, or they did understand the motivation behind what was being said. This takes place a lot in our world of texting. You don’t hear their tone of voice, the message is brief and has no context, and often texts can be taken wrong. How would you want the other person to respond to what you said? Certainly, you don’t want them to be angry and quit talking to you. Your desire would be that they would first assume the best and then try to find out what you meant by what you said and understand that it did not come from a heart of malice toward them. That would be how you would want them to treat you.
Thus, if someone says something about you that seems malicious toward you, how should you react? We should do as we would have them do to us. First, decide in your mind that they must not have meant it to be hurtful or insulting. Then, without any animosity toward them, find out what they meant by talking to them in person. Not in a text! We should not be looking to be offended at every little thing someone says. Rather we should treat people with the same understanding that we want to be treated.
This applies to all of our relationships and how we treat them. Do you want to be remembered by your worst offense toward another person? Of course not, we want them to forgive us when we repent to them. In turn, we should not remember others for their offenses against us, but for the forgiveness we extended to them.
The “Golden Rule” applies to every interaction in life.
- would you want your spouse to say to you what you just said to them? This principle is huge in marriage.
- would you buy what you are selling to others?
- would you eat what you are cooking for others?
- would you want your car repaired in the same way you are repairing their car?
- would you want the raise you gave an employee?
- would you appreciate receiving the tip you just gave your waitress?
- would you want to be treated at the front door the same what you just treated the Jehovah’s Witness people?
- when merging on the freeway, would you want the other cars to treat you the way you treat those trying to merge onto the freeway themselves?
On and on we could go, but I think you get the idea. Our actions should be a reflection of our desire, our desire for how we want to be treated. Jesus did not say to treat others the way they treat you, He said treat them the way you desire to be treated. Neither did He say if you treat others right, that you will be treated the same way in response. Seldom does that occur. No matter how others treat us, we treat them the way we desire to be treated. Our life of faith is to be evident in all our interpersonal relationship. Our actions toward other people should be governed by how we want to be treated. Why is this important? What is the reason for acting like this toward other people?
For this is the Law and the Prophets
In other words, this one simple rule pretty much summarizes the commands that God has given us. Let me translate this. Living our lives is as much about our relationship with God as it is our relationship with others. Our lives are not just about a relationship between us and God, but it is about our relationship with other people also. Remember what the greatest commandment is? Then the second that is like to it?
36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
38 This is the great and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
Our reason for practicing the “Golden Rule” is our vertical relationship with God is revealed in our horizontal relationship with others. You are not isolated from the world, as much you think you would like to be, we are not and should not be isolated from the world. The reason for the “Golden Rule,” as we call it, is that everything about our faith hangs on what God and Jesus has been teaching us. We like to think that our life is all about us. But as the old saying goes, “Only two options on the shelf, serving God or serving self.” When we serve God, we are interacting with others. When we serve self, we isolate ourselves from others and ultimately from God.
The “Golden Rule” is to be used in every aspect of life. We don’t need to carry around a 2,000-page manual of how to respond to everything in life. Just make application of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is almost universal to everything that happens to us in life. What you say, how you act, the expressions you display, the responses you have, or any kind of interaction with people should be governed by that simple principle.
Now keep in mind that the “Golden Rule” is a response that comes from a person already in a relationship with God. They have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and trust Him with their lives. You cannot make yourself right with God, by trying to abide by the “Golden Rule.” This principle of Christian living cannot be used to save a person from the penalty of sin. In fact, I am glad its not, because no one would go to heaven if we have to keep the “Golden Rule.” Certainly, we can strive to abide by its principles, and as believers we should, but no one keeps it perfectly.
I praise God, that my home in Heaven is not dependent on my right actions. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No one is righteous enough to be accepted by God. It is only by the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we can be accepted. Through Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and our faith in Him, we are invited to be a part of God’s family. We need a Savior to be right with God. We need to place our faith in the saving work of Jesus.
If you ask someone if they think they are going to Heaven and they say something like this, “I try to do good things, I try to live by the Golden Rule,” you must share with them that no one enters the glories of Heaven by the things they have done. Lead them to the saving grace of Jesus.
We have said that, as Christians, we reflect the very character of God. Jesus has been teaching us all along that our lives, our heart’s motivations, put God on display in our world today. The “Golden Rule” is a principle that should help guide our lives in putting God on display in our world today. How you and I interact with others in our world either attracts them to faith in God or repels them. How do you react to the mistreatment of others?
Andrew Murray said,
“My relationship with God is part of my relationship with men. Failure in one will cause failure in the other.”
I read this illustration once and I thought it applied here. “There was a man sitting by a tree near a creek, reading his Bible. Something caught his eye and he looked to see a scorpion caught between two roots of the tree. The man reached over to help the scorpion get loose, but each time he tried to grab it, the scorpion tried to sting him. Another man who was standing nearby watching this said, “Don’t you know it is the scorpion’s nature to sting? Why don’t you just forget it and let it die there?”
The man smiled and looked up and replied, “Should it be necessary that I change my nature to accommodate someone else’s nature? The scorpion may sting, but I help, that is my nature.”
We all know that treating others the way we would like to be treated doesn’t mean that we will be treated nicely in return. In fact, often the sting of being taken advantage of or being slandered or being cheated or mocked and ridiculed will be the response we get. But our nature, as a child of God, is different than the nature of our world and we should expect to get stung. But that should never change who we are as God’s children.
“Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.”