What's Wrong With the Golden Rule?
by Tom Stewart
June 17, 2001
"Therefore all things whatsoever
ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and
What's wrong with the Golden Rule? Absolutely nothing! This principle
of reciprocity is so well understood by mankind, that literally every major religion
of the world acknowledges it in their sacred writings. "14 For when the Gentiles, which have
not the Law, do by nature the things contained in the Law, these, having not the
Law, are a law unto themselves: 15 which
shew the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness,
and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another" (Romans 2:14-15). However, the Golden Rule, when
divorced from the rest of the Scriptural concept of the Moral Law, becomes merely
an untenable ethical position employed by philosophers or pragmatists. But, "Scripture cannot be broken"
(John 10:35). For example, if I (hypothetically) as a police
officer would not desire to be shot or killed, then how could I rationalize the use
of deadly force upon a shooter, fleeing from my presence after shooting at me and
killing my partner? Wouldn't a strict interpretation of the Golden Rule force me
to stand in the shoes of the fleeing shooter and also desire not to be shot or killed?
"Nonsense!" you may react; but-- how does the Scripture reconcile the use
of deadly force with the Golden Rule? "What
saith the Scripture?" (Romans 4:3).
Deadly force is justified by Scripture. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man" (Genesis 9:6). Specifically, Human Government's use of deadly force is recognized and sanctioned by Scripture. "3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Romans 13:3-4). But, the Golden Rule addresses only the second half of the Ten Commandments or Decalogue, which epitomizes the Moral Law. "36 Master, which is the great Commandment in the Law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with ALL thy heart, and with ALL thy soul, and with ALL thy mind. 38 This is the First and Great Commandment. 39 And the Second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two Commandments hang all the Law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40). The LORD Jesus Christ summarized the whole of the Moral Law keying on the word love, with the Golden Rule being identified with only the Second, i.e., "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (36:39).
A Scriptural statement of the Golden Rule was given by the LORD Jesus Christ in His Sermon on the Mount.
"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 Gospel According to Luke also records Christ's statement of
the Golden Rule. "And as ye would that
men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Luke
6:31). Anticipating the moralists' emphasis upon the Golden Rule,
Christ added this perspective that reciprocity alone is not the key to human conduct,
but love is. "43
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou
shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse
you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you,
and persecute you; 45 that
ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven: for He maketh His sun to
rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them
which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only,
what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father
which is in Heaven is Perfect" (Matthew 5:43-48).
Humanistic philosophy and morality may gladly embrace the Golden Rule because it reciprocates conduct on a purely human to human level; but, that which separated Ancient Judaism and separates True Christianity from the other major religions of the world, is the emphasis upon Love and obedience to the Almighty, which is the rest of the Moral Law, in addition to the Golden Rule. "37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with ALL thy heart, and with ALL thy soul, and with ALL thy mind. 38 This is the First and Great Commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38). Only as we begin to comprehend that True Love is obedience to the LORD Jesus Christ, can we begin to develop a properly balanced life, which also pays appropriate homage to the Golden Rule. "1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him [the Father] that begat loveth Him [the Son] also that is begotten of Him [the Father]. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His Commandments. 3 For this is the Love of God, that we keep His Commandments: and His Commandments are NOT grievous [literally, burdensome]" (1John 5:1-3).
Human ethics do not necessarily see a need for asking God forgiveness for breaking the Golden Rule, which is also called the Royal Law in New Testament Scripture. "If ye fulfil the Royal Law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well" (James 2:8). God is the Moral Governor of the Universe that enforces compliance to the Golden Rule, judging it sin when the Golden Rule is transgressed, and punishing those who break it. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Mercy, then, is a necessity to all those who have broken God's Golden Rule, for "all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and the "wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). However, Christianity preaches the "Gospel of the Grace of God" (Acts 20:24), where mercy has been demonstrated to mankind by the Father offering His Son in our place in atonement for our sins, i.e., "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life" (John 3:16). "9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the Law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the Law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the Law of Liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment" (James 2:9-13).
Even Professing Christians, who are persuaded of the rightness of Scripture's Golden Rule, must also understand the need of the Holy Spirit working in man "to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). The best of intentions in Professing Christians may still result in miserable failure in keeping the Golden Rule, unless we purposefully come in faith to the Almighty for the fulfilling of His New Covenant with us. "But this shall be the Covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Jeremiah 31:33). That Covenant is now called the New Testament, whose chief feature is the indwelling Spirit of God in the Saints to renew them and cause them to walk in obedience. "26 A New Heart also will I give you, and a New Spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My Statutes, and ye shall keep My Judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
This is the reason that the LORD looks upon disobedience in Professed Christians with such disdain. "Why call ye Me, LORD, LORD, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). And further, calls such conduct a Lying Profession. "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar, and the Truth is not in him" (1John 2:4). In sum, this is the answer to the question that has plagued mankind as to why people do not do what they know they ought to do-- all of mankind needs the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, which is given to those who are willing to obey Him. "And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him" (Acts 5:32). Willingness on our part indicates that God is already working in us. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy Power" (Psalm 110:3). And, if He has chosen to work in us, then He will continue to perform that Perfect Work until He comes for us. "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). Keeping the Golden Rule does not save us, but how can we claim to be saved, if we do not keep it? "3 And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His Commandments. 4 He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar, and the Truth is not in him" (1John 2:3-4).
May God give us the Grace to keep His Golden Rule.
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