THE PLATINUM RULE:
DO TO OTHERS
The "Golden Rule" is supposedly one of the most widely known principles in the world. Yet Jesus' statement is unique. If it is understood correctly, it stands out from all the imitations as the Platinum Rule.
Message begins at approx. the 32 min mark.
What we are looking at today is often called the Golden Rule. I would like to say that it is the Platinum Rule.
Some of you may know the real golden rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules." That’s the golden rule or the rule of gold, at least according to our world's standards.
But seriously, we are looking today at what some call the law of ethical reciprocity. Others of us have simply called it the Golden Rule. There are a number of different reasons why it is called that.
One reasons is simply because the word gold is emblematic of that which is superb. It represents something precious. This is the golden rule because it is supposed to be the greatest of all statements regarding morality. It is the most valuable and greatest summary of ethics.
A second reason is very much complimentary to that idea. This may be said to be the Golden rule because it is so prolific. As I said a moment ago, there are many other religions and philosophers who have touted something akin to this. And people will say that this is not unique to Jesus.
For instance, many will tell you that similar statements can be found in the Quran, in Hindu writings, in the works of Confucius, and many other texts which can be found in many other places in many other time periods.
I’m told that one of the main reasons why it has been called the Golden rule is because one of Roman Emperors had latched on to this statement (or one similar to it). He was so captured by it that he had it written in various places around the city of Rome. And in one of the more prominent places it was actually inscribed with gold.
And one of the things that we should do is pause and remember that we are coming to God’s holy and inspired word. I would hope that this would be regarded as golden. I believe that we are dealing with one of the most common verses of all of Scripture. Someone might easily say, “Well, I’ve heard this one before. I know it.”
But I actually would like to say there’s a good chance we don’t know it well. One of the points I’d like to make to day is that we often get it wrong. As a matter of fact, all of my points today are going to drive that home.
What you are going to find out is that the Golden Rule is pretty tarnished. Even though this is supposed to be one of the most common statements on this planet, a lot of people are actually pretty ignorant when it comes to understanding it.
We are going to examine this Golden rule and we are going to look at three specific things. I want you to understand how focused it is, how proactive it is, and how comprehensive it is.
I. How focused it is
This is focused on one part of Christianity. And I might add that it is not even the most important part of Christianity. This is focused on one aspect of Christianity.
You can look at the end of the verse. It says, “this is the Law and the Prophets.” If you have the NIV it will say, “This sums up the law and the prophets.” And a lot of people take this to mean that Jesus sums up all of Christianity. So, if you were to ask them what Christianity is all about, they would reply with the golden rule; “It is about doing to others what you would have done to you.”
In other words, they would respond with law. They would say that the essence of the Christian faith is that you need to be good. If you make this your aim all your life and seek to do to others what you would have done unto you, then (they would say) you will have succeeded in living out the Christian faith.
This is what you might call the classic liberal view and it became popular in the early 1900’s. But what you need to understand is that “doing unto others” is not what Christianity is all about. The Golden Rule is not the summation and essence of Christianity, it is only a summation of one part of Christianity. It is the moral side of Christianity.
Christianity’s main focus is the gospel. To put it another way, the main tenet of CHRIST-ianity is CHRIST. It is the gospel: the good news that Jesus has come into this world to save sinners.
Don’t get me wrong. What Jesus says here is very important. This teaching, as we will see, is a very distinct. And it will help you grasp the ethical implications of what Christ taught. If you want to know what God expects of you, this is a good place to start. But this is not the sum and substance of Christianity.
The core of Christianity is that which gives us hope of eternal life. Eternal life is the reason why Jesus Christ came into this world. To put it another way, Jesus came into this world because we have broken God’s law. His whole purpose is his sacrifice which is necessary as an atonement for sin. We all stand condemned apart from faith in Christ because we have violated the law and the prophets.
This week I came across these words from John Newton, who you may know as the author of the song Amazing Grace. He said this: "As desirable and precious as sanctification is, it is not (and I trust it will never be) the ground of my hope. Nor were I as sinless as an angel in glory, could I have a better ground of hope than I have [in the gospel]."
So you might say that the real gold is not in the rules that God has set forth. No matter how precious the law of God is. The real gold is found in the life that Christ lived, the death that he died, and the salvation he brings by virtue of his resurrection. That is the main facet of Christianity and that’s what makes it so valuable.
So it is important to understand how focused this is. As Jesus gives us the golden rule, we must not forget that he is speaking of how a Christian can now live. How is it that we are to respond to the gospel? God has saved us from sin. How is it that we are now to go on living? What does the Lord expect from us now that he has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and brought us into his kingdom? Well, he expects us to do to others what we would have done unto us.
Which brings us to our second point. When it comes to the Golden Rule, you should not only understand how focused it is, but you should also notice how proactive it is.
II. How proactive it is
Look at it again and notice how it is stated, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
One of the things that stands out as unique about this passage is that it is stated in the positive. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
There have been many people and many religions say something similar to this. But they have almost all been stated in the negative. Don’t do to others what you don’t want done unto you. For instance, listen to these examples. Here’s one from India. In the Sanskirt tradition it says this,
"One should never do something to others that one would regard as an injury to one's own self." (Mahābhārata)
Here’s another one from the ancient Greeks. This one comes from a guy by the name Sextus the Pythagorean. He said, “What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either. "
Let me give you one more. This one comes from the famous Jewish leader Hillel. He says,
What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation.
There are many other examples we could look at. And we agree, yes, there is some overlap and similarity. But what Jesus says is unique.
And maybe you have even thought of the Golden Rule like this. I remember taking a poll in when I taught at a Christian High School. These were sophomores, most of whom had grown up in the church and in Christian families. Most of them had gone to Christian school since they were in kindergarten. I gave a pop quiz and I asked them what the Golden Rule was. Almost every one of them said, “Don’t do to others as you wouldn’t want done to you.”
But, as one pastor has said, that’s not the Golden Rule. That’s the Silver Rule. And you have to understand that Jesus states it in a positive, proactive way. And there is a vast difference from saying do to others and don’t do to others. To state it in a negative way is to make it passive.
You know what you have to do to fulfill the negative version? Nothing. You don’t have to do anything. If you just keep to yourself and don’t talk to anyone, and you don’t do anything to anyone, then you are supposedly doing what you are supposed do.
So, if you don’t want people speaking to you in a mean way, what are you supposed to do? You are not supposed to speak to them in a mean way. Actually, you don’t have to speak to them at all, do you?. You don’t have to do anything. You can completely avoid them if you want to.
But Jesus isn’t telling you to live a passive, stand off-ish life. He’s calling you to be proactive. It isn’t don’t do to others. Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have done unto you.” He says that you are to move towards someone and be a benefit to them.
If you see someone who is lonely, what should you do? You wouldn’t want to be lonely. You’d like a friend. You’d like someone who would come alongside you and welcome you, hang out with you, and make you feel comfortable. So that makes you go over to that person and try and become the friend that you would have wanted.
I realize that I’m saying this in a room full of extroverts. So that probably isn’t a good illustration. Let me try a different one.
Guys, have you ever had your wife tell you how good the lawn looks? You went out and you spent the afternoon cutting the grass. You not only worked hard to get those pretty little lines, but you also went the extra mile and you did the trim work too. You got out the weed whacker and you went meticulously around all the edges and made the place look alike a palace. And later that evening your wife says to you, “The yard looks really great. Thank you for doing that.”
You know how you feel when that happens, right? It’s like your manhood was just validated. You get a real boost out of the fact that she noticed and took the time to say something.
Now you also know how it feels when she doesn’t notice. You did the yard. You got it done. But it is kind of a let down that she didn’t notice how precise the lines were.
Now this is what Jesus is talking about. It’s about being proactive. You want someone to acknowledge your hard work and care for the house. You crave that validation; you love having that commendation. That’s what you would like being done to you, so you need to now be proactive and do that for your wife.
You don’t have to wait until she is frustrated to no end with the homeschooling to tell her how well she’s doing. That’s what often happens isn’t it? When she’s breaking down and crying on your shoulder you pat her on the back and say, “No, dear, you’re doing great.”
Jesus is saying, you need to be more proactive than that. When you come home and the kids tell you about what they did that day, a little later on in the evening you can say to your wife, “That’s really great that you guys did that. You’re doing a wonderful job with them.”
You see, there is a world of difference between what Jesus says and what almost everyone else in the world has said about the Golden Rule. Most people speak in terms of a hands off approach. We want to do as little as possible and make it come off as pious and good. But man’s way of looking at this is nothing more than sloth and sinfulness.
But Jesus speaks in terms of love. And you understand that his live is assertive. It doesn’t wait around. It has a radar up and is looking for things to do. Jesus wants us to think about how proactive we can be. What would be the most advantageous to the people around us. What would bring about the most good? What can we serve?
That’s the real meaning of the Golden Rule. And you will never fully understand it until you grasp how aggressive it is.
But there’s a third thing you should note. Not only should you see how focused it is and how proactive it is, you should also consider how comprehensive or all inclusive it is.
III. How comprehensive it is
Listen to it again and try and hear who all is involved: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”
Did you hear it? Did you hear how it has a universal scope? This is the way you are to treat your family, your church family, and the guy who lives across the street. This is the way you are to treat the guy who stands next to you at the DMV. There is no limit to the range of this command. This is the way you are to treat anybody with whom you may come into contact.
Now that’s not typically the way we act. What we want to do is reign in the spectrum of our activity. We want to constrict it to people who are like us or people we know.
And this is actually what you find in a lot of other teachings. For example, there have been several Jewish groups which have taught similar things to what Jesus said here. Their only difference is that they made the range of kindness much more narrow. It isn’t as comprehensive as what Jesus says.
John Gill points out in his commentary that Maimonides, who one of the most famous and influential Jewish scholars (living in the Middle Ages), gave basically the same teaching as Jesus. He however said that it applied to his fellow Jews. His famous quote goes like this, "All things whatsoever ye would that others should do to you, do you the same to your brethren.”
Everything was virtually identical to what Jesus said except that he put a limitation on it. He added those last two words and made you only responsible for his fellow Jews. So Maimonides made it a racial. As long as they were fellow Jews--as long as they were like you--then that’s who you needed to be having on your radar.
Similarly, Gill points out that there was a certain group of Jews, called the Karaite Jews, who said "all things that a man would not take to himself, it is not fit to do them to his brethren." Again, you see there it was all about their own people. You don’t have to worry about people who are different. You don’t have any responsibility towards someone who will have a different bloodline. Just stick to your own people.
And we can point fingers and look down on them for saying these things, but, if we are honest, we’ll realize that we are prone to do the same thing. I’ll be proactive in taking care of my family. I’ll be proactive in helping those who are a part of my church. I’ll be okay with anyone in my own circle, but that’s where I draw the line.
Maybe you don’t say that as explicitly as Maimonides. Maybe it is something that is a little more subconscious. But the truth is, we do tend to be just as partial in our dealings with people. It may be that it is a dividing line of skin color. It might be that someone dresses differently or comes from the other side of the tracks. Then again, it may not be a racial or economic thing. It may simply be someone we deem to be unworthy of our help. They haven’t been nice to us, so why? Why in the world would I go out of my way to serve them?
But you’ll recognize that this kind of attitude is radically against the gospel. It’s not only contrary to what Jesus says in the Golden Rule, but it is contrary to the greatest kindness that was ever shown towards us.
You see, Jesus Christ came to save sinners. He was proactive, you might say, in serving people who really didn’t deserve it. He gave his life as a sacrifice for you and for me. Not only had we done nothing to deserve it, in all reality we did everything possible to deserve his wrath and curse. It was while we were his enemies that Christ died for us.
And now the gospel urges us to go and do likewise; to be indiscriminate in our love and good works. He wants us to have an eye out for whoever may cross our path. We are called to let our love abound. We are to have an all inclusive spirit.
There’s a story of one of the Covenanters who was being pursued by one of the governing official’s dragoons. The Covenanters were Presbyterians in Scotland in the 16th century and they were severely persecuted. They lived through a period called the Killing Times.
One of the Covenanters was being pursued through the snow and through the woods. He came to a river which had frozen over. And he, with peril to his life, crossed over. He then trudged on knowing that this safety had not yet been secured. But he had not gotten far when he heard a cries for help. Immediately he knew what it was. The man who had been hunting him had fallen into the freezing river. At that moment he knew he could make his escape. But the thought came to him: What would he want done to him if he were in that situation? So he went back. With care he made his way out onto the ice, and he fetched the man out of the frigid waters.
It did not matter that this man was intent on evil. It did not matter that they did not share the same religious conviction. At that moment, the only thing that mattered was the realization that Christ had called him to proactive and vital love.
It’s true that we may never be in a similar situation like that. We may not face the same sort of extremes. But we can recognize that the law is no less demanding upon our lives in many other ways every single day.
And so we need to be aware of our prejudices and our tendency to shut off the valves of kindness and keep them from flowing towards certain people.
And we need to recognize that it isn’t so much the sins of commission that should concern us. Our greater concern should be with the sins of omission: where we we fail to do that which we are called to do.
You and I are to realize that the love of the kingdom is a great love. It abounds and overflows. That’s what makes Christianity unique. That is what is supposed to make it stand out in this world. And it does because that is the very heart of the gospel.