Is the Golden Rule Enough?
Many people lead what they call “a good life.” By this they mean that they do no harm to others and often do them good in a material way. Will this lead to everlasting life? Or is more required?
CHRIST Jesus stated the so-called golden rule: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matt. 7:12, NW) Following this rule of neighbor love is necessary for gaining everlasting life in God’s new world. Some think, though, that keeping the “golden rule” is all that God requires. But have we really discharged our duty toward God by just doing good to others? Do the Scriptures show that the “golden rule” is enough?
Actually, when we turn to God’s Word, we find that one can lose out on everlasting life even though he be engaged in a program of constructive good works. This is a major point made by Christ Jesus himself. The Bible writer Luke tells us about a time when Jesus was invited to a home:
“A certain woman named Martha received him as guest into the house. This woman also had a sister called Mary, who, however, sat down at the feet of the Master and kept listening to his word. Martha, on the other hand, was distracted with attending to many duties. So, she came near and said: ‘Master, does it not matter to you that my sister has left me alone to attend to things? Tell her, therefore, to join in helping me.’ In answer the Master said to her: ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and disturbed about many things. A few things, though, are needed, or just one. For her part, Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.’”—Luke 10:38-42, NW.
Engrossed, apparently, in preparing many dishes for a meal, Martha was “distracted with attending to many duties.” Her intentions were good; she wanted to do all the good she could for Jesus. Martha’s sister Mary, however, sat down at the feet of the Master “and kept listening to his word.” Mary sensed the importance of knowledge, the knowledge of God and his purposes. Martha, busy about so many household things, was irked, and she requested Jesus to instruct Mary “to join in helping me.” The Master then set Martha straight as to what really was important. He said that she was “anxious and disturbed about many things,” that there was only one thing that was really important and that Mary had chosen this good portion.
What, then, is the meaning for us? This: that service to others is not enough; that it is possible to be “distracted with attending to many duties” that, though kind and worthwhile in themselves, may cause us to lose out on everlasting life. A program of highly useful activity is not in itself enough.
“LISTENING TO HIS WORD”
Jesus told Martha that Mary ‘had chosen the good portion’ because Mary kept “listening to his word.” Mary had indeed chosen a good portion, for as Simon Peter once told Jesus: “You have sayings of everlasting life.” Since the taking in of this knowledge of “sayings of everlasting life” is placed by the Son of God on a higher level of importance than rendering service to others, we see Jesus’ point: that the doing of good to our neighbors must be in its proper relation to our regularly sitting down “at the feet of the Master” and “listening to his word.”—John 6:68, NW.
The true Christian, then, must be like Mary. By his course of action he must show that he really believes Jesus’ words: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matt. 4:4, NW.
The words of Jehovah are found in the Bible. It is to that Book we must turn. From it we can acquire knowledge of Jehovah and his purposes. There is no substitute for this knowledge. It is vital. Salvation depends on it. Declared an apostle of Christ: “This is right and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose will is that all kinds of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:3, 4, NW) Stressing the importance of accurate knowledge Jesus said in prayer to his heavenly Father: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3, NW.
Since knowledge means life, the converse must be true: lack of knowledge means death. This was true with the ancient nation of Israel. When they became stubborn and refused to take the teaching of Jehovah, God told them through his prophet: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.” (Hos. 4:6, AS) If we fail to put forth the effort to obtain accurate knowledge, God will also reject us; he will count us as not being “rightly disposed for everlasting life.”—Acts 13:48, NW.
THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
When, through study of the Scriptures, we come to an accurate knowledge of the truth, we realize that there is a commandment grander in scope and importance than the “golden rule” of neighbor love. The Son of God gave us the right perspective on this matter when he explained: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.”—Matt. 22:37-40, NW.
How clear it is now! There are two commandments of life. Both are essential. We must live by both rules to be worthy of everlasting life. But one commandment is greater than the “golden rule” of neighbor love; that is the commandment to love Jehovah God “with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.”
How do we show this kind of love for God? The Bible answers: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3, NW) Though we may keep the “golden rule” as well as humanly possible, yet if we fail to observe God’s other commandments, we fall short in our love for God. That is serious.
Before one can observe God’s commandments, he needs to know what they are. This again brings us back to the vital need of obtaining an accurate knowledge of God’s Word. We can understand now why Jesus told golden-rule–minded Martha that Mary had chosen the good portion, because Mary chose to get knowledge. Without knowledge we cannot know what God’s commandments are; without knowledge of these commandments it is impossible to keep them, and unless we keep them we fall short of the greatest commandment of them all.
REQUIREMENTS FOR LIFE
The requirements of God are not one-day-a-week requirements; they extend into daily living. True Christianity really does something for a person; it changes him. His whole outlook on life is changed; he becomes a new personality. Notice how far-reaching God’s command is: “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality which through accurate knowledge is being renewed according to the image of the one who created it.” (Col. 3:9, 10, NW) To do this, one must really be humble; he must be a lover of righteousness. This God requires: “Before the day of Jehovah’s anger come upon you. Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”—Zeph. 2:2, 3, AS.
The new world will be completely righteous. This old wicked world must go. Soon now it will be destroyed at Armageddon. So God requires: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which the heavens being on fire will be dissolved and the elements being intensely hot will melt!”—2 Pet. 3:11, 12, NW.
We must constantly study God’s Word, and help others in a spiritual way. Others need to know of God’s new world and of the nearness of Armageddon. The way to show neighborly love and our love for God is to tell others about Jehovah’s purposes. This is what the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses is doing. You can share in the work Jesus commanded for these last days: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.”—Matt. 24:14, NW.
Spiritual giving is following the “golden rule.” But above all, coupled with “holy acts of conduct,” it shows that our love for God is complete. The “golden rule,” in its narrow sense of just doing physical good to others, is not enough.