The Golden Rule

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I know many people who say they follow the “Golden Rule”.  They say they live by what Jesus has taught in the Bible. They love others as they love themselves.  They do to others as they would want done to them.  Many of these same people consider themselves Christians just because they claim to follow this teaching.  Is that all it takes in life?  Is that all it means to follow Jesus Christ? Is this what makes a person a Christian?  Perhaps the most important question is this: When the Lord Jesus laid out this commandment, did he mean to just simply do unto others as you would have them do?  Or is there more to this and more to being a Christian?

Let’s take a look at a few places where the Lord Jesus has said this.

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
— Luke 6:27-36

Here we have Dr. Luke recording this account.  Is Jesus saying don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you?  Or is there something bigger that He wants those who hear to grasp?  

Let’s look at what Mark records.  

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
— Mark 12:28-31

Here the Lord Jesus gives the same “Golden Rule” answer, but first He states something slightly different.  “Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is one Lord”.  What the Lord Jesus is quoting from is Deuteronomy 6 in the Old Testament.  This is the Shema that the Jews would pray daily and still do.  He was stating here (as also recorded in Matthew) that there is no other God and He is to be loved with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  This is the most important.  And this God we are commanded to love is the God of the Bible. He is the same God of the Old and New Testament.  To love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength is to obey all that He commands.  

But what does this mean for the “Golden Rule”?  This rule is not “Golden” unless we love God as He commands us to love Him.  We cannot truly love others until we truly love God.  We cannot do to others as we would have them do until we understand the love of God and His grace and mercy.  Notice in Matthew 7:11 the Lord Jesus talks about evil people giving good gifts to their children who show love back.  God goes beyond and gives gifts to those who do not love Him.  

The point of the “Golden Rule” as truly taught by the Lord Jesus is not for human gain.  It is not a simple guideline to go through life.  It is not what Christianity is as many may believe. The “Golden Rule” is a commandment we cannot possibly keep on our own without the love of God for us through His Son Jesus Christ. The “Golden Rule” is not the gospel, but thank God for sending His Son to keep the “Golden Rule” perfectly for all who believe.  


Daryl J. Updike

Daryl is a deacon at Shadyrest Bible Church in Chesterfield, NJ. He is currently pursuing his M. Div. at Whitefield Theological Seminary. He is married to Karen, and they have a daughter named Eleanor. You can read more from him at his blog and listen to him and his wife on the podcast “What Are We Even Doing Here” available on iTunes, SoundCloud and other podcast catchers.