The Golden Rule of Conduct – Matt 7:12

by Steven Chan

We “have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (Matt 5:38). There are many who live by this rule of conduct. If you mistreat me, I will do likewise to you.

We see that kind of behaviour in road rage cases where a person who is upset by another driver who had negligently or inadvertently cut into his driving path in a dangerous manner, retaliates by trying to overtake the other car, and sometimes even physically injuring the other driver.

The upset driver felt that it was right for him to behave in that manner because of what the other driver had done to him. He was returning evil for evil. God’s guidebook for acceptable conduct states that we ought not to return evil for evil (Rom 12:17).

Such behaviour also exists in some instances in a marriage relationship. Since you did not treat me right, I am going to treat you in a similar manner! That may well be the way the world behaves. But such ought not to the rule of conduct for those who seek to walk with the aim of pleasing God.

There are also those who seem to be focused on “the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye” (Matt 7:3). They are critical of the conduct of others but oblivious to their own faults which in some instances are worse than those of others.

Jesus said in Matt 7:5: “Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” We must examine ourselves to see that we are walking in the light as Jesus is in the light (I John 1:7). When we seek to correct others, we must look at our lives too, to make sure that we are not guilty of similar or greater sins, or that we may fall into similar sins. (Gal 6:1)

There are also some who live by the rule that they mind their own business and do not bother with the lives of others. They live unto themselves and are not too concerned with the well-being of others, apart from expressing their sympathy for their unfortunate state of affairs.

In 1 John 3:17-18, the Bible says: “But whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? My Little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth.”

Again in James 2:15-16, the Bible says: “If a brother or sister be naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit?” The attitude of not caring for the well-being of others is not a God-glorifying behaviour. We are told to “not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others” just as Christ did (Phil 2:4-5)

The Golden Rule of Christian conduct is stated by Jesus in Matt 7:12: “All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

In other words, treat others the way you yourself would want to be treated. So, if you want others to be friendly to you, then you should be friendly to others. If you want others to treat you nice, then treat others in a nice manner too.

But what if they treat you badly even though you had treated them in a nice manner? The Bible says “do not return evil for evil”. Jesus’s answer as recorded in Matt 5:44-48 is: “love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the Gentiles the same? Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Christians are called to live by the golden rule which obligates us to initiate the effort to do good unto others regardless of how others may treat us or respond to our goodness towards them. We are asked to live by this rule because our heavenly Father also lives by the Golden Rule and does good to all regardless of whether they are good or evil. So, if we want to be His children, we need to walk like Him.