The Golden Rule of Conduct Matt 7:12

By Steven Chan

1. Our lives are characterized by relationships.  As a member of the family, we have relationships with our parents, our siblings, our children and grandchildren for some. We have relationships with friends, colleagues and our community. Most importantly, we have our relationship with our Creator, God.

2. How do we conduct our relationships with all of them? Are we happy with all our relationships? Do we do as we please? Are we obliged to conduct our relationships in a certain way?

3. The Bible provides the guidelines for how we ought to conduct our relationships with our fellow men. Jesus said in Matt 7:1-2: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  One important cause of bad or unhealthy relationships is that of a critical judgmental mind-set.  According to Jesus, these people “look at the speck in (the) brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in (their) own eyes” (Matt 7:3).  They think they are better than others – but in reality, they are oblivious or blind to their own faults and short-comings.

a. The truth of the matter is that none of us is perfect. “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10). We easily stumble: “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body…See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:2-10)

Rom 2:21: “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?”

b. We will do well to remember the exhortation of the Scriptures: “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Rom 14:10).  “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 4:9)

c. This does not mean that we ought not to correct brethren who walk in a manner that displeases God. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Gal 6:1). “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” (2 Thess 3:6).  

We must do it in the right manner: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Tim 2:24-25)

4. Jesus highlighted the Golden Rule of conduct: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 7:12).  Some have rendered this as: “treat others as you would want them to treat you”.

a. It requires us to think of how we would like to be properly treated, and to treat others by the same standard. If and when we are in need/distress, we would appreciate any help rendered to us. In view thereof, we ought to look out for those who are in need (spiritual, financial, emotional, physical, medical, academic, etc.) and extend our helping hand to them.

An application of this Golden Rule: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (Prov 18:24).  If we wish to have friends, then we must first make the effort to be friendly to others.  Sometimes we hear some complain that the church members are not friendly. Perhaps we should pause and ask ourselves, have we been friendly?

b. In essence, the Golden Rule of Conduct is the application of the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:39).  The application of this commandment is well illustrated by the account concerning the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). Jesus said: “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”  

c. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, the word “mercy” in Luke 10:37 is translated from the Greek word, ἔλεος (eleos — el’-eh-os ) which: “is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it… Mercy describes God’s attitude toward those who are in distress.”

d. Jesus pointed out that the Golden Rule ought to be practiced even when others do not treat us likewise: “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” (Luke 6:32-33) In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus said: “For (God) is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

e. One Bible student pointed out a mis-understanding of this rule. He gave the example of a convicted murderer asking the judge whether the latter practiced the Golden Rule, and if so, would he (i.e. the judge) if he were in his position (i.e. that of the convicted murderer) wished that he would not be sentenced to death? – implying that the judge ought not to sentence him to death since he (the judge) would not wish to be treated in a similar manner!

f. The Golden Rule is always subject to the Law of God.  In the above instance, both parties are subject to the Law of God which requires all to be subject to the governing authorities and its laws: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.” (Rom 13:1).  

The practice of the Golden Rule of conduct should not be misapplied such that one transgresses the law of God.  One can think of many instances whereby one may want to be treated in a manner that is inappropriate – the Golden Rule cannot be used to justifying doing that which is inappropriate or unlawful (for example, mutually consenting adulterers, homosexuals, etc.).

5. We need to remember the exhortation in Rom 12:17-21: “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

Our rule of conduct needs to be higher than that of the sinners.  It is not in our place to try to take revenge on those who have mistreated us. We leave that to God who is the Judge. We must strive to live peaceably with all men.

We must not be judgmental and critical of others. We ought always to look out for the interest of others (Phil 2:4) – to help them in their time of need/distress, and we need to keep doing that which is good (Gal 6:9-10; Heb 5:14).