The Golden Rule
Matthew 7:12
Therefore all things whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

This is the great Christian rule of life. In some respects it was not unknown before Christ; the famous rabbi Hillel is said to have uttered a maxim somewhat like it. Nevertheless, it is distinctly Christian because Christ sets it before us as of primary importance, because it is the first rule of Christian conduct, because it is the law of our Lord's own life, and because he alone shows us how it can be carried out in practice and so makes it real and living.

I. WHAT IT MEANS. It is an application of the old principle of the Law that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. It sets before us an excellent test by which we may see whether we are doing so, an admirable standard by which we may measure ourselves. Observe its characteristics.

1. Action. It carries us beyond the love of sentiment to the love that is seen in action. It is useless to feel kindly to others if we do not act fairly.

2. Breadth. "All things whatsoever" are included under it. It is to apply to men generally - not merely to brethren, friends, neighbours, fellow-Christians, fellow-citizens. It applies to strangers, disagreeable people, foreign nations, the heathen, savage races.

3. Lucidity. Here is a clear guiding light. We can well perceive what we should like ourselves. We know how we should like to be treated under certain circumstances. Accordingly we may see how others would also wish to be treated. Thus we can perceive what is desirable, and instead of letting self-interest blind us to our duty to others, we may use the voice of self-interest as the very indicator of what should be done to them.

4. Reasonableness. Nothing unfair is here laid upon us. No one can possibly complain of this rule. It is a principle of perfect justice, and every man is to be his own judge in regard to it.

II. WHAT IT CONTAINS. "The Law and the Prophets," i.e. the whole Scripture. Here is the whole duty of man. Of course, it is evident that Christ is referring to that side of man's duty which belongs to his fellow-men. Yet even the further duty of serving God is here best fulfilled.

"He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small." In human intercourse this maxim may be taken as a universal guide. Were it always employed no more would be needed. It is set forth in Kant's categorical imperative, "So act that thy conduct may be a universal law to mankind."

III. HOW IT IS PRACTICABLE. The chief distinction between Christ and moralists when he deals with moral questions is not so much the superior character of his teaching - though that must be apparent to all - as the power that accompanies it. The Utopian dream of the ethical thinker becomes a possibility, becomes a reality in the kingdom of heaven. The golden rule floats hopelessly above our reach until we come into personal contact with Christ. But it is the very law of the life of Christ, and when we are united to him the inspiration of his life makes it possible for us. Thus it is not just to say that this rule is Christianity, and that all else in our religion is needless. On the contrary, it is a living, spiritual Christianity - faith in Christ and devotion to him - that enables us to carry out Christ's great rule of conduct. - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Therefore 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.

WEB: Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

The Golden Rule
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