Scripture: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 ESV
Observation: Having encouraged his disciples to seek the good gifts of the Father that bring flourishing of life, Jesus transitions to an overarching principle of kingdom living that ensures the well-being of others: treat them in the same manner you desire for yourself. Here, Jesus reframes Rabbi Hillel’s response to a Gentile who challenged him to summarize the law (circa 20 CE), “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else. This is the whole law; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it” (Shabbath 31a). But Jesus rephrases it positively, inclusive of quantity (“whatever you wish”) and quality (“do also to them”).
And when we incorporate Christ’s teaching into all aspects of our lives, we fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Indeed, as theologian D.A. Carson contends, “In the deepest sense, therefore, the rule is the Law and the Prophets in the same way the kingdom is the fulfillment of all that the Law and the Prophets foretold” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, p. 188).
Of note, this maxim of Christ later became known as the Golden Rule when Roman Emperor Alexander Severus purportedly wrote it on his wall in gold. Severus reigned from 222-235 CE, and with such a wise perspective of civility toward others, he prospered under a season of peace as Rome’s ruler.
Takeaway: As theologian Michael Wilkins reasons, Jesus’ Golden Rule ensures stability in his kingdom when his disciples depend on their heavenly Father—”their one constant in this world,” and thus find a healthy balance between meeting their needs and that of others. Wilkins further explains, “When appropriate trust in another’s care is linked with trust in the Father’s care, Jesus’ disciples never have to think about their own needs being met; those needs are met in the loving community of disciples who emulate the Father’s commitment to care for us” (NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, p. 314).
Wilkins speaks to the redeeming elements of church life. Living in a fallen world, the body of Christ does not always conduct itself with a balance of self- and other-centered care while trusting in the Father’s provisions—as evidenced by two millennia of church history that has suffered crusades, inquisitions, a hostile reformation, and schisms. Thus, we would do well to apply the Golden Rule without expecting reciprocity while maintaining healthy relational boundaries that guard us against unnecessary backlash—casting “pearls before pigs” (Matthew 7:6).
On a positive note, when we apply the Golden Rule to our relationship with others, even unbelievers, without expectations, we place ourselves in the best possible position to draw out the best in them. And most importantly, we witness the Father and Son’s love and grace in us, glorify their names, and grow their kingdom—golden!
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for demonstrating your love and care for us in the life, death, and resurrection of your Son. So would you please help us to channel your love and care to the least, the last, and the lost for your glory and your kingdom’s sake? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling