The Sermon, part 25: Golden

Read Matthew 7:12

“And what you hate, do not do to anyone. Do not drink wine to excess or let drunkenness go with you on your way.” (Tobit 4:15 NRSV)

pureatisgoldIf something is truly “golden”, it must be something of great value, right? We wouldn’t take something that is golden and leave it lying around for others to steal. We wouldn’t take something that is golden and flush it down the toilet. We wouldn’t take something that is golden and trade it for something made of plastic, would we?

Then, by the very nature of labeling Matthew 7:12 (cf. Luke 6:31) as the Golden rule we are implying that is one of the most valuable rule out of all the ones that Jesus taught. It is the rule that we all should be all aspiring to attain. Just like we persist and persist in earning what it takes to get that golden bracelet, or that golden neckless, or that gold portfolio (if you’re William Devane from the Rosland Capital commercials), we would certainly persist in trying to live according to the golden rule if we truly see it as being “golden.”

The rule, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12), is the bookend that concludes the instruction section of the great sermon. The sermon opens up with Matthew 5:17, which means that Jesus is not ending his sermon with a rule that he is coming up with on his own; rather, he understands this rule to be at the core of Jewish teaching. Everything that fall between Matthew 5:17 and 7:12 are summed up by the Golden rule.

What’s more, the golden rule (which sums up the law and the prophets as seen in Matthew 5:17-19; 7:17) is also intricately connected and related to the two greatest commandments, found in Matthew 22:34-40. It is important, therefore, to note that the Golden rule is the way, or at least one of the ways, that Jesus sees the greatest commandments being fulfilled. To love God and to love neighbor as one loves oneself is to do to others what one would have others do to him/herself.

While the phrase “The Golden Rule” was coined as early as the 17th century, the value of this rule is far exceeding what any phrase can make it seem. It has appeared in one form or the other as early as 2040 – 1650 BCE in Egypt. It is accounted for in Leviticus 19:18. It has been taught in China by Confucius (500 BCE), Laozi (500 BCE), Mozi (400 BCE), in India, in Greece as early as 624 BCE, in Persia as early as 300 BCE, in Rome by Seneca as early as the potential year Christ was born (ca. 4 BCE), and in other places as well.

So, Jesus is not tapping into anything new, nor is he breaking any new ground here by stating this rule; however, what he is doing is solidifying how important his teachings between Matthew 5:17 and 7:12 are, and he is simultaneously showing what the end result of those teachings is: To do to others what one would had done to oneself. In other words, to love God is to love one’s neighbor and to love one’s neighbor is to value and cherish him or her to the exact degree one cherishes oneself, even to the point of doing to the other what one would want done to him/herself.

This does not translate into, “Do unto others had they have DONE unto you,” nor does it translate to, “Do unto others BEFORE they do it unto you.” Those are not the golden rule, but the complete contradiction of the Golden Rule. Yet, many of us live our lives in that manner. Even if we don’t personally do that to those we perceive to be our enemies, we allow our political worldviews and opinions to be shaped around a “get them before they get you” idealogy. These types of views go against the Golden Rule and the teachings leaning up against it. Reflect on how golden this rule truly is for you and also reflect on how you might work on coming to value it more than you have.

“Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.” – Confucius (500 BCE)

Lord, overlay me with the Golden Rule that it may cover me and guide me in all that I do. Amen.

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