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Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:12)

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Matthew 7:12 KJV 1900
12 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.


The golden rule
There are many instances of the negative form of this idea found through history.
Athenian: Whatever angers you when you suffer at the hands of others, do not do to others.
Rabbi Hillel: Whatever is displeasing to you do not do to your neighbor.
Book of Tobit: What thou thyself hatest, to no man do.
Confucius: What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.
Then comes Jesus with the positive perspective and He says: Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

Why did Jesus focus on the positive aspect of the Golden Rule rather than the negative?

As we saw a moment ago, there were many “golden rule” type statements made before Jesus uttered the words in our passage today.
In every instance, however, the quote centers on the restriction of doing things that you would not have done to yourself.
If it would be unfair...
If it would cause pain...
Then it is not something we should do.
It may seem like this is an insignificant difference, but is it?
Whether we focus on the negative (don’t) or the positive (do) isn’t it essentially the same truth?
Well, as a Bible student, we claim to believe that words mean something.
We claim to believe that the words that are used are important and are chosen for a purpose.
We aren’t the only ones to hold to an idea like this.
Philosophy students are also deeply concerned by the actual words used.
If Confucius and others focused on the negative, and Jesus focused on the positive, there has to be a reason.
I believe the reason has to do with the different worldviews and their understanding of what is good and what is evil.
The relativity of truth is not a new phenomenon.
Confucianism places a high value on humility and modesty.
Before you attach definition to these words based on your understanding of the Bible, you need to understand their definition.
Modesty is the non-claim of possessing knowledge in general.
Humility is the lack of knowledge of what is good and not thinking of ones self as good.
To claim that one possess the knowledge of what qualifies as good is seen as moral hubris.
Therefore, if I am going to exercise modesty and humility, then who am I to say that, just because something is good for me, it must also be good you?
This makes logical sense.
Well, actually, this makes logical sense if we have not been given a standard outside of ourselves for what qualifies something as good or evil.
One Confucian commentator even went so far to say that, had Confucius stated the “golden rule” in the positive he would have also had to supply a standard for what qualifies as good.
We’ll come back to that.
Confucianism is still making a truth claim.
It is simply claiming that it is easier to know what qualifies as evil than it is to identify what is good.
That same Confucius commentator said that claiming knowledge of evil is less immodest than claiming knowledge of good.
This is interesting because Confucianism believes that man is naturally good.
Why give the negative spin to not commit evil if evil is unnatural to mankind?
Is it because all men inherently, subconsciously know that we naturally tend to evil?
Jesus focuses on the positive aspect of the golden rule, because He has already defined the standard for what’s good.
The words of these other philosophers, may have pre-dated the sermon on the mount.
They were only standing on a morality that belongs to God.
After giving us the only positive spin on the Golden Rule, Jesus drops the mic by claiming originality for the principal of the golden rule.
The golden rule, as stated by Jesus and, honestly, by these other philosophers, is simply a summary of the law and the prophets.
If you want to go even deeper, the law and the prophets are simply an expression of the morality that is founded in God from eternity past.
You go back to last weeks message and we see that the goodness of a father is only good if it is a reflection of the goodness of the Father.
Jesus could focus on the positive perspective of the principle because He hadn’t divorced Himself from the moral standard of the word of God and the character of God.
He directs His disciples to apply the same standard to their behavior.

Jesus’ listeners didn’t have to be legal experts to have a standard of good to apply to their lives.

They really just needed to listen to what Jesus was saying to them right then.
Throughout the sermon, Jesus had given them general and specific instructions on what is good.
Be merciful to others.
Be salt and light in the darkness.
Reconcile with those you have offended.
Think pure thoughts about the opposite sex.
Show love to your enemies...
We could keep on working our way through the rest of the message.
All of these things could be summed up in the words of the golden rule.
Whatsoever you would that men would do to you, do ye even so to them.
They all needed/wanted to be treated a certain way.
They wanted to be shown mercy when they deserved punishment.
They had been in darkness at one time and needed someone to be the light.
They had no doubt offended someone and needed that person to be willing to reconcile with them.
They wanted others to be pure towards them, their wives, their sisters, and their daughters.
They wanted their enemies to show them love.
Jesus words direct His disciples to apply the positive aspect of the golden rule to their lives.
It’s not just about withholding evil actions.
This takes
It’s about extending positive goodness to others.

How do we apply this truth to our lives.

We could be general.
Just be nice to people.
That’s fine, but what are some more difficult applications of this principle?
Are there not specific examples?
As a customer, how would you want to be spoken to if you were the employee?
As a parent how would you like to be thought of if you were the teacher?
As a Christian, how would you like to evangelized if you were the lost person?
By simply asking the question, how would I want that person to treat me, we can find the answer to how we are supposed to treat others.
Whether it be a family member, a church member, a coworker, neighbor, friend, acquaintance, or even a stranger.
Jesus did not put any descriptors on this command; there are not exemptions.
In fact, he says that this mentality should define “all things” that we do.
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