KINGDOM ETHICS SUMMED UP IN THE GOLDEN RULE CONSISTENT WITH THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS = LOVING OTHERS
William Barclay: This is probably the most universally famous thing that Jesus ever said. With this commandment, the Sermon on the Mount reaches its summit. This saying of Jesus has been called “the capstone of the whole discourse”. It is the topmost peak of social ethics, and the Everest of all ethical teaching. . .
In its negative form, this rule is in fact the basis of all ethical teaching; but no one but Jesus ever put it in its positive form. Many voices had said: “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you,” but no voice had ever said: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” . . .
To take a very simple analogy – if we own a car, the law can compel us to drive it in such a way that we do not injure anyone else on the road, but no law can compel us to stop and give a lift to someone who is obviously in need of help. It is quite a simple thing to refrain from hurting and injuring people; it is not so very difficult to respect their principles and their feelings; it is a far harder thing to make it the chosen and deliberate policy of life to go out of our way to be as kind to them as we would wish them to be to us.
Grant Osborne: This simple principle would by itself revitalize human relationships if people everywhere were to begin to live by it. It not only summarizes the OT law but also provides a capstone for Jesus’ new covenant principles, setting the standard for the “greater righteousness” of 5:20, i.e., righteousness in action in human relationships. It builds on the “good gifts” we receive from God (v. 11), so that we in turn do only good to one another as well.
Note that the whole emphasis is on what we do for others; there is no expectation of getting something back in return (it is “do to others what,” not “do to others so that”). So the kingdom comes both in the advent of the Messiah, the Son of God, and in a new level of ethical commitment on the part of the new covenant people. This is not a radical humanism (as some have said), for it is completely dependent on the relationship with God implied in vv. 7–11. We can only be good to our neighbor if we have truly experienced God’s goodness to us. Then we have a proper model to follow and a proper source of strength.
Donald Hagner: It is from this saying and that of 22:37–40 that love became the dominant and summarizing theme of the Christian ethic. To act in this manner, in constant deeds of love, is to bring to expression that to which the law and the prophets pointed. That is, a world where only good is done to others involves by definition eschatological fulfillment, a return to the paradise of the Garden of Eden. To do good to others is to mirror the activity of the Father (7:11), which of course finds its supreme manifestation in the eschatological fulfillment brought by the Son. If the ethics of the kingdom of God anticipate the coming future in the present, then this is especially true of the ethic of the golden rule, which is the distillation of kingdom ethics. If this teaching of Jesus were to be lived out in the world, the whole system of evil would be dramatically shaken. Even if it were to be manifested seriously in the Church, its impact would be incalculable. In this sublime command, so simple and yet so deep, we encounter a challenge central to the purposes of God and therefore one that is also eschatological in tone. No other teaching is so readily identified with Jesus; no other teaching is so central to the righteousness of the kingdom and the practice of discipleship.
J C Ryle: In this part of the sermon on the mount (Mt 7:12-20) our Lord begins to draw His discourse to a conclusion. The lessons He here enforces on our notice, are broad, general, and full of the deepest wisdom. Let us mark them in succession. He lays down a general principle for our guidance in all doubtful questions between man and man. We are “to do to others as we would have others do to us.” We are not to deal with others as others deal with us. This is mere selfishness and heathenism. We are to deal with others as we would like others to deal with us. This is real Christianity. This is a golden rule indeed! It does not merely forbid all petty malice and revenge, all cheating and over-reaching. It does much more. It settles a hundred difficult points, which in a world like this are continually arising between man and man. It prevents the necessity of laying down endless little rules for our conduct in specific cases. It sweeps the whole debatable ground with one mighty principle. It shows us a balance and measure, by which every one may see at once what is his duty. Is there a thing we would not like our neighbor to do to us? Then let us always remember, that this is the thing we ought not to do to him. Is there a thing we would like him to do to us? Then this is the very thing we ought to do to him. How many intricate questions would be decided at once, if this rule were honestly used!
I. CONNECTIVITY TO THE CONTEXT
Not just a string of isolated teachings
John Nolland: That the linking οὖν (‘then’) functions to introduce a summary (and generalisation) is suggested by the inclusio with 5:7 created by “the Law and the Prophets”. It will, then, be important to read the Golden Rule as used here closely with what has already been said.
Daniel Doriani: The Golden Rule is widely cited and widely abused. An adult twist on the Golden Rule says, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.” A child’s version says, “Do one to others before they do one to you.” But a proper understanding of the Golden Rule begins with its context. . .
Once again, therefore, Jesus’ laws lead us to see our sin and our need for grace. We simply cannot keep his law. We cannot stop judging others for their failings. We cannot keep even the simplest summary of his teaching: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” What then shall we do? We return to the first word in our passage. We must ask God for mercy to forgive and ask him to make us new.
Charles Swindoll: This capstone serves as a fitting summation of the previous three principles.
- Treating people the way we want to be treated would mean not judging others unjustly —because to the degree we judge others, we ourselves will be judged (Matt. 7:1-5).
- Treating people the way we want to be treated would also mean not dumping our declaration of the message on those whom God has not prepared; to do so could sour them to the truth and cause them to treat the things of God with hardened contempt (7:6).
- Further, treating others the way we want to be treated would mean modeling for others the rich, loving benevolence God the Father has poured out on us (7:7-11). In other words, because of the inexpressible, unconditional grace God bestows upon us, we ought to show the same kind of unconditional grace toward others.
II. CONDUCT DESIRED
“however you want people to treat you”
We all know how we would like to be treated
“by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2)
Donald Hagner: The emphatic πάντα ὅσα, lit. “everything whatsoever,” and the present tense of ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς, lit. “you be doing to them,” presents a high challenge to the Christian in his or her relations to others, involving both unlimited scope and faithful persistence.
III. CONDUCT COMMANDED
“so treat them”
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)
Not just about how we feel towards them . . . but primarily how we act towards them. This requires an investment of our resources in the lives of others.
IV. CONNECTIVITY TO THE OT
“for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
This is what it is all about – what Christ has been trying to sum up in the Sermon on the Mount as He gives the divine interpretation of the OT law.
“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5)
D. A. Carson: The rule is not arbitrary, without rational support, as in radical humanism; in Jesus’ mind its rationale (“for”) lies in its connection with revealed truth recorded in “the Law and the Prophets.” The rule embraces quantity (“in everything”) and quality (houtōs kai, “[do] even so”). And in the context of fulfilling the Scriptures, the rule provides a handy summary of the righteousness to be displayed in the kingdom.