The Golden Rule—A Universal Teaching
“All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”—Matthew 7:12.
THOSE words were spoken nearly two thousand years ago by Jesus Christ in his famous Sermon on the Mount. In the centuries since, much has been said and written about that simple statement. Among other things, it has been extolled as “the very essence of Scripture,” “a summary of the Christian’s duty to his neighbour,” and “a fundamental ethical principle.” So well-known has it become that it is often referred to as the Golden Rule.
The idea of the Golden Rule, however, is by no means confined to the so-called Christian world. Judaism, Buddhism, and Greek philosophy all expounded this ethical maxim in one form or another. Well-known, especially to people in the Far East, is a statement by Confucius, who is venerated in the Orient as the greatest sage and teacher. In The Analects, the third of the Confucian Four Books, we find the thought expressed three times. Twice, in answer to queries from students, Confucius stated: “What you do not want done to you, do not do to others.” On another occasion, when his pupil Zigong boasted “What I do not want others to do to me, I also do not want to do to them,” the teacher responded with this sobering rejoinder, “Yes, but this you are not yet able to do.”
Reading these words, one can see that Confucius’ statement is a negative version of what Jesus later said. The obvious difference is that the Golden Rule stated by Jesus requires positive actions of doing good to others. Suppose people were to act in harmony with Jesus’ positive statement, caring about and taking steps to help others, living by this code daily. Do you think that would make today’s world a better place? Undoubtedly.
Whether the rule is stated in the positive, the negative, or any other form, what is significant is that people in different times and places and with diverse backgrounds have put much stock in the idea of the Golden Rule. This simply shows that what Jesus stated in the Sermon on the Mount is a universal teaching that touches the life of people everywhere in every age.
Ask yourself: ‘Would I like to be treated respectfully, fairly, honestly? Would I like to live in a world without racial prejudice, crime, and war? Would I like to be in a family in which everyone showed concern for the feelings and welfare of others?’ Actually, who would say no to such possibilities? The grim reality is that very few enjoy these conditions. For most people, it is almost too much to hope for such things.
Golden Rule Tarnished
Throughout history, there have been cases of crimes against humanity in which the rights of people were totally ignored. These include the slave trade out of Africa, Nazi death camps, forced child labor, and brutal genocides in one place or another. The horrifying list could be much longer.
Today, our high-tech world is self-centered. Few people think about others when their own convenience or supposed rights are at stake. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Why have so many become selfish, cruel, unfeeling, and self-centered? Is it not because the Golden Rule, though still widely known, is being brushed aside as unrealistic, a moral relic? Sadly, this is the case even among many who claim to believe in God. And judging by the way things are going, people will only become more self-centered.
Therefore, the vital questions that must be considered are: What does living by the Golden Rule involve? Does anyone still live by it? And will there ever be a time when all mankind will live in harmony with the Golden Rule? For the truthful answers to these questions, please read the following article.
[Picture on page 3]
Confucius and others taught variations of the Golden Rule