The Golden Rule for Christian Behaviour

by Steven Chan
29 March 2009

In Matthew 7, our Lord Jesus Christ discussed the subject of our relationship with one another and warns us against the tendency to view others much more critically than we would on ourselves. In Mat 7:3-5, Jesus said: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Isn’t it true that we can somehow see the faults of others rather than our own faults? Somehow we tend to gloss over our own weaknesses but we are ready to jump in with both feet onto the next person who exhibits the same weakness! And we get all fired up and upset with the perceived misbehaviour of others when we are guilty of the same, if not worse than that of others. We need to stop ourselves and check to see whether we are being too quick to judge another.

Our Lord then discusses the importance of “asking, seeking and knocking” in relation to our needs and God’s ability and willingness to provide for us. In Mat 7:11, He said: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” God is ready and able to provide for our needs. Hence, we should not doubt when we pray to Him and make our petitions to Him.

He then articulated a rule of behaviour which is often referred to as the “Golden Rule of Christian behaviour” when He said in Mat 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, the rule requires us to do to others whatever we wish others to do for us. The standard is how one wishes to be treated by others.  Some of us complain that people do not seem to treat us right – for example, they do not talk to us at the regular assemblies. The application of the golden rule in such a situation is that we should first go and talk to others – because that is what we would want others to do to us. Of course, we should not go and talk to others by accusing them for not talking to us first! That would be violating the earlier teaching of the Lord who said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1).  Similarly, it may appear that some may not be very friendly towards us. What should we do? According to Prov. 18:24, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly” (KJV). In accordance with the Golden Rule, we should take the first steps to be friendly towards the other person.

The account of the Good Samaritan is an example of the application of the Golden Rule. According to Luke 10:33-34: “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” Why did the Samaritan do what he did? The Bible tells us that he had compassion when he saw the plight of the injured man. According to Jesus, he was obedient to the command that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:36). Whether it was his compassion or his obedience to the command to love our neighbour as ourselves, he was also complying with the Golden Rule that “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”  The situation with the Samaritan was that if he were to be the man injured and lying on the road, he would have welcomed and appreciated the help that he himself had extended to the injured man – regardless of whether the injured man had actually asked for help. His help was spontaneous and natural as his heart was moved with compassion.

The Golden rule of Christian behaviour will help us act in accordance with God’s will and thereby bring glory to Him (Matt 5:16).  Jesus said that in acting by that rule, one is complying with “the law and the prophets”. In other words, this rule is consistent with or comprises the core teachings of the law and the prophets – almost in the same vein as the statement in Rom 13:10: ”Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfilment of the law.”

We need to carefully incorporate the Golden Rule of Behavior into all aspects of our lives – whether in our work relationships, or family relationships or marital relationships, or relationship within the church, etc…. However, this does not mean that we should do whatever others want us to do for them. In one instance the apostle Paul wrote thus in 2Thess. 3:10: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat.” There are instances when we would not do for others what they would want us to do for them. This is because if we are properly taught, in such similar circumstances, we would not want others to do to us in a similar manner. In other words, just like the apostle Paul who wrote: “neither did we eat bread for nought at any man’s hand, but in labor and travail, working night and day, that we might not burden any of you” (2 Thess 3:8).

But there are many areas in our lives where we need to put into practice the Golden Rule – which by the way is NOT the Golden Option! It is a Rule of conduct which should characterize the Christian lifestyle. We do not have any option as regards whether we would want to adopt the rule; it is the teaching of the Lord. So when it comes to how we treat our associates or our employees, do we apply the Golden Rule of behaviour? “And, ye masters …forbear threatening: knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven” (Eph. 6:9). When our spouse does not treat us the way we would like to be treated, how should we respond? Remind them who is the head of the house? Or who puts the food on the table? Can we not practice the Golden Rule and treat them the way we want ourselves to be treated?

But someone may ask, how long should we practice this rule? What if the other person does not reciprocate in the way we wish to be treated even though we have treated the other person the way we wish to be treated? I guess, the same answer given by Jesus as regards the practice of forgiveness would be equally applicable – Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.(Mat 18:22). But more pertinently, the exhortation contained in Rom 12:17-21 is appropriate: “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Similarly in 1Pet. 2:12, the Bible says: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” and in 1Pet. 2:19, “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.”

The truth is that we do not practice the Golden Rule because we expect to be treated by the same rule. We ought to practice the Golden Rule even when others do not live by the same rule and especially when others do not live by the same rule. We are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). The Golden Rule should set us apart in all our dealings with our fellow man. It is sad that some emphasize the requirements of Mark 16:16 but not the requirement of Matt. 7:12. Brethren, remember the judgment scene of Matt. 25:31-46. How we treat one another is what determines where we spend eternity – even though we may have obeyed Mark 16:16. Obedience to the gospel adds us to His church. But continual obedience and faithfulness to the Will of God ensures that we do not lose our place in His kingdom.