The Golden Rule: It’s the Law (and the Prophets)

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Image jmwork

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”—Jesus of Nazareth

There are not many things I find more beautiful and difficult than the Sermon on the Mount. If any of us can read these words and not be shaken to the core, we’re either lying to ourselves or we don’t get it.

One of Jesus’ most profound statements is what we now call the golden rule: “Do to other what you would have them do to you. . .” This simple little statement is followed by the most powerful exclamation point, ” . . . for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” When Jesus tells you that the whole Law (not to mention all the words of the prophets) are summed up in one phrase, you listen.

It’s interesting to me that this little saying isn’t entirely particular to Jesus. In some fashion it had been around for centuries:

“Do not do to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.”—Pittacus (c. 640–568 BC)
“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”—Confucius (c. 551–479 BC)
“Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you.”—Isocrates (436–338 BC)

But when it comes out of Jesus’ mouth, it’s turned on its head. I mean, in the past we got off by simply not annoying people.

I don’t like wedgies, so I shouldn’t give you wedgies. I don’t like to have my car keyed, so I shouldn’t key your car. I don’t want to listen to country music, so I shouldn’t force you to listen to country music. Living harmoniously with others is simply a case of not doing crappy things to them.

Jesus says that the whole of God’s law is summed up with the mindset that I should ardently do for others what I would like for them to do for me. With a simple little change, this saying takes on a whole world of profound significance.

The people of God are called to actively and intentionally do good for others. And not just the good that we’re willing to do, but the good we wish would be done for us.

So fire up your empathy machine and look at the people around you. If you were in their situation, think about what you would you want someone to do for you—then do it.

I mean, after all, it’s the law.

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