What is the “Golden Rule” and what does it mean to us?

In the seventh chapter of Matthew, Jesus is drawing to a close his great sermon, which we commonly refer to as the “Sermon on the Mount”. In verse 12 he preaches this word to his disciples:

 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, 
   for this is  the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)

William Burkitt (an 18th Century Bible commentator, in his Expository Notes) calls it “an incomparable rule of life”. It is, “always to do as we would be done by.”

And John Calvin, the famous Reformer, simply teaches that this is “an exhortation to his disciples to be just”. He also offered an explanation on why there are so many quarrels in the world and why men inflict so many mutual injuries on each other. It is because “they knowingly and willingly trample justice under their feet”. But, on the other hand, they rigidly demand that justice must be maintained towards themselves.

Paul Kretzmann, a renowned bible teacher in the early 20th century, calls this verse “a summary which embraces in one short sentence all the admonitions to charity that are found in the entire sermon, all that is laid down in the sacred writings with regard to the behavior of men toward each other”.

Men are the beneficiaries of God's bountiful goodness. Men should therefore pattern their conduct after this example, applying it generously in all their dealings, brother toward brother. If this rule were always followed, perfect peace, love, and harmony would exist in the world.

To do to others what we would wish them to do to  us is truly the incomparable rule of life. It is a short rule, a full rule, and a clear rule. It is the whole essence of the set of commandments in the second table of the Ten Commandments. Both the light of nature and the law of Christ bind it upon us.

It is the intent of the Old Testament that men be dutiful and obedient to God, and then be righteous and charitable one to another.

Jesus says, this is “the law and the prophets”. Yes! The whole of the law and the prophets is to love God above ourselves, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.


Pastor Robert Chew