Tag Archives: The Golden Rule

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.

The Categorical Imperative

Read Genesis 1:26-31; Psalm 23; Matthew 25:31-46

“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NRSV)

In the church and in the corporate world, the word “stewardship” often floats around congregations in the form of campaigns to raise “funds” for the mission and ministries of the church. As such, many people hear the word “stewardship” as just a church-speak for, “cough up some dough for us.” This particular perception has risen up as a result of the way stewardship has been discussed and handled in the church and corporate settings.

Yet, the word steward is used in other ways that point to the fact that, deep down, we know stewardship to be more than just monetary support. Back in the day, flight attendants were known as Stewards and/or Stewardesses. The steward, in the airline industry, is the person who cares for the needs of the customers boarded on the plane. They fetch pillows, bring food and drink, listen to and address issues specific travelers may be having, and they instruct people of safety procedures in case of an emergency. What’s more, in the event of an emergency, the steward risks their own safety in order to save lives and get people off of the plane (if it has been grounded). The role of a steward is the same on trains and ships as well.

There are other examples of stewardship as well. Rather, than belabor the reader with a million examples of stewardship, it is more important to point to the definition of what a steward is, in order to better grasp the concept of stewardship. A steward is a person how cares for the needs of other people, organizations, events, and/or places. Thus, stewardship is the ethos that embodies the responsibility of caring for those needs, which absolutely includes the management and planning of resources. With that said, let us not simply limit resources to money. Google defines a resource as, “a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.”

In other words, stewardship is the embodiment of managing and planning resources, whether those resources are monetary, material, human, natural, or any other resource. Being a good steward is about managing those resources well; however, this sounds more corporate and less spiritually worded. In terms of being Christian and living out our Christian faith, being a good steward means taking good care of all that God has given us and making proper use of the resources God has given us. If we don’t share our resources with others, we are not being good stewards, and the same is true if we neglect, abuse, misuse, or mismanage the resources shared with us.

Thus, to be a good steward, spiritually speaking, we must recognize that ALL THINGS are FROM GOD. Our money, our natural resources, our real estate and property, our congregation members (in the case of churches), our staff members (in the case of corporations and/or organizations), and all other resources are from God. If we do not recognize the divine value within each of the non-living resources, and the divine presence and/or image in all living resources (especially in humans), then we are not embodying the ethos of good Stewardship. We cannot abuse/neglect the environment, be misers, and/or see our congregation members, our staff, our friends and family as expendable means to an end, and still call ourselves good stewards, let alone stewards in any sense of the word.

This latter part is often overlooked in stewardship talks and campaigns and, yet, is the most important part of stewardship. PEOPLE MATTER and are to be valued. LIVING BEINGS are ends unto themselves and never should be seen as a means to an end (to summarize Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative). So, today I challenge you to start evaluating your stewardship and start working toward being the best stewards you can be. That is what it means to be disciples of Christ, that is what it takes to truly follow Christ and uphold Christian values. STEWARDSHIP IS VITAL. Be good stewards and work to user in God’s Kingdom on Earth.

“Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law.” – Immanuel Kant
Lord, forgive me for when I’ve used people as a means to an end. Help me to treat people as divine persons and not tools. Amen.