“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Following the Golden Rule in the Bible will improve our relationships with others and with God.
What is the Golden Rule in the Bible?
“Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:12. Luke 6:31 words it, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” Applying this simple but profound human relations principle can help us to treat others with kindness, empathy and godly love.
The context of the Golden Rule
The Golden Rule can be found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12. This famous quote by Jesus Christ actually begins in the context of verse 7, which says we can go to God for our needs and receive help from Him: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
The next few verses elaborate on this thought. Just as a caring human father gives good gifts to his children, so, too, God gives good things to those who ask Him (verses 9-11).
Verse 12 then concludes the thought: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (emphasis added throughout).
The word therefore connects the Golden Rule verse to the preceding assurances that we can ask God for help in our lives and receive it.
God’s desire is to help us
Matthew 7:8 assures us that it is God’s desire to help us: “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
The book of James also tells us the source of everything good in our lives: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
The Golden Rule shows God cares how we treat others
Do we have a part to play in how God answers our prayers?
There are many passages in the Bible that make a connection between how we live our lives—specifically, how we deal with others—and how God deals with us. Two such verses can be found in the Sermon on the Mount.
Among the “Beatitudes” in Matthew 5, we find this: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). We all want to receive mercy when we need it, but we may not always be so eager to extend it to others! God clearly expects us to be merciful if we expect to receive the same from Him.
In the model prayer in Matthew 6, we notice the same principle being applied to forgiveness and forgiving: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Again, a clear connection is made—this time between being forgiving toward others and receiving God’s forgiveness for ourselves.
In the area of judging others, Jesus made it quite clear that we will receive judgment from Him in the same manner we judge others. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). Jesus Christ Himself is our judge (2 Timothy 4:8), so this passage tells us that when we judge others, we are setting the standard He will use in judging us!
With these examples in mind, let’s be reminded again what Jesus said in Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” These are wonderful assurances. Verse 8 tells us everyone who asks will receive, all who seek will find, and the door will be opened to those who knock.
However, God always has perfect understanding and flawless judgment to determine what gifts are best for us and when it’s best for us to receive them.
Does God always help us when we ask?
Earlier, we saw in James 1:17 that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” If a 10-year-old child asked for a powerful motorcycle to drive to school, would a loving parent give it to him? No, in reality it would be harmful to give a motorcycle to a 10-year-old. In a similar way, God may not give us a gift that could be to our detriment, but He would instead give us something helpful.
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). The word translated “amiss” in this passage is from the Greek word kakos, and it carries the connotation of asking “improperly, wrongly” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). God will not grant a request that would carry us away from our relationship with Him.
God’s long-term plan for us may not be something we can see, at least in the short term. Though we can be assured that He has our best interest in mind and greatly desires to give us good gifts, we may not always receive the gift we expect—but the gift God gives will be one that is better for us.
Notice the experience that the apostle Paul encountered when faced with a physical ailment: “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
Whether or not we apply the Golden Rule in our life will have a direct impact on how God deals with us!Paul chose to move forward, knowing that God’s will for him was still being done.
In other cases, God allows us to wait to receive an answer in order for us to develop patience and character. Probably the most outstanding example of this is Abraham, who waited 25 years to receive his promised son Isaac, who was born when Abraham was 100 years old (Genesis 21:2-5).
Applying the Golden Rule
The most common phrasing of the Golden Rule is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the Golden Rule as: “A general rule for how to behave that says that you should treat people the way you would like other people to treat you.”
The statement made by Jesus in Matthew 7 mirrors the same concept expressed in the Old Testament, in Leviticus 19:18: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
Jesus listed this as the second great commandment (Matthew 22:39-40). It also summarizes the last six of the 10 Commandments.
God’s instruction is the same in both the Old and New Testaments.
Whether or not we apply the Golden Rule in our life will have a direct impact on how God deals with us!
The parallel Gospel account in Luke makes a statement not found in Matthew 7.
Notice how God expects us to be acting toward others if we expect to receive blessings and gifts from Him: “‘Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you”’ (Luke 6:37-38).
Once again, the way we treat others sets the standard of how we will be treated by God. And this includes receiving God’s gifts!
What do you choose?
Many in our modern society espouse a general philosophy of looking out for the self—first taking what you want and need, and considering others later. This is the way of “get” or “take”—the natural, selfish way of life characterized by getting for ourselves and putting “me” first.
God’s way is instead the “give” way—the way of giving, sharing and outgoing concern for others. It’s the way of godly love. It is the way of the Golden Rule.
Let’s look again at the Golden Rule as stated in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” The word therefore connects us directly back to the promises about asking, seeking and knocking in verses 7-11.
Which path will you choose to pursue in your life? How do you want to be received by God when you are asking, seeking and knocking? Bear in mind that how you treat others sets the tone for how God will treat you!
Read more about God’s expectations and how He wants us to pray to Him in the following articles: