Six Rules of Life
Jesus said, "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" (Matt. 7: 12). All people have rules or philosophies that tend to govern and influence their lives. Many live by the rule of selfishness, "get all I can and can all I get" (cp. Lk. 12: 15-21). Jesus said that his rule is, "the law and the prophets." "The law" is manifestly the Law of Moses; hence, the connection with "the prophets." The Law was much loftier in its teaching than some think (cp. Prov. 24: 29, 17). The true law, not the Jewish perversions to which Jesus refers in his sermon (Matt. 5: 21-48), taught proper attitude toward others, even one's enemy (Matt. 5: 43-45, see Prov. 25: 21). Some argue that the Law of Moses only addressed the overt act and not the precipitous heart. Such a view is patently false (Matt. 5: 27, 28, Prov. 24: 9). Jesus, in his above rule, enunciated the very essence of all that God had taught relative to man's moral duties to man. Albert Barnes wrote the following concerning Jesus' rule of life:
"This command had been usually called the Saviour's golden rule, a name given to it on account of its great value. All that you expect or desire of others in similar circumstances, do to them. Act not from selfishness or injustice, but put yourself in the place of the other, and ask what you would expect of him. This would make you impartial, candid, and just. It would destroy avarice, envy, treachery, unkindness, slander, theft, adultery, and murder. It has well said that this law is what the balance-wheel is to machinery. It would prevent all irregularity of movement in the moral world, as that does in a steam engine. It is eaily applied, its justice is seen by all men, and all must acknowledge its force and value" (Barnes Notes on the New Testament, Vol. 1, pg. 78).
Notwithstanding Jesus' simple and practical rule, man is often motivated by other philosophies. After a study of the motivating thinking of the masses in the matter of how they conduct themselves toward others, there are at least six recognized rules at work. Some of these rules may, on the surface, resemble Jesus' rule, but when more closely considered, they are vastly different in content and in results.
"Do unto others when they do to you." Most people are actuated by this rule. "I will when he does ," sort of thinking. In attempting to heal alienation between people, one often encounters this thinking. Notice Jesus' plain teaching regarding such matters:
"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" (Matt. 5).
"Do unto others what they do unto you." People are heard saying, "I just did to him what he did to me!" Human abuse and mistreatment continues, often because of this rule of life to which not a few have subscribed. Regarding this philosophy of life, Jesus asked this question: "And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thanks have ye? For sinners also do even the same" (Lk. 6: 33, see vs. 26-33).
"Do unto others before they do unto you." Regarding this rule of life, consider the death of Nahash, King of the children of Ammon (2 Sam. 10: 1, 2). Evil surmising took place. Certain ones did not trust King David's expressions of kindness and mistreated the messengers sent by David (2 Sam. 10: 4, 5). The children of Ammon anticipated revenge for their evil so they secured 33, 000 warriors and declared war (vs. 6-14). This whole matter was occasioned because of the thinking, "I thought he was going to so I did it to him first!"
"Do unto others so they will not do unto you." At first glance, this rule may appear to be what Jesus taught. However, the goal of Jesus' rule is: "that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven " (Matt. 5: 45). Some say, "this is how I avoid enemies, I do good to them." This stated reason is substantially different from the "so they won't do unto you." In other words, Jesus did not say to do good to others to prevent them from doing evil to you. This rule is selfish and self-seeking.
"Do unto others that they might do unto you." This rule is also selfish, from a different slant. Jesus asked, "And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again" (Lk. 6: 34). "I have learned that the best way to benefit myself is to do good to others. In so doing, people do good to me." This is not what Jesus taught.
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is Jesus' rule, clear and simple. Man needs to ask himself in particular situations of life how he would like to be treated and then treat others this way. Would you want another to lie and slander you? You certainly would not. Do you want one to steal from you or destroy your property? How about abuse you in any way? All would answer, no. Then, we are to treat others in the fashion that we ourselves want to be treated. The beauty and applicability of the scriptures is remarkable. In Jesus' rule, we have teaching for all men, of all ages, and all cultures so succinctly stated. Jesus' rule is pliable and applies to all situations of life and knows no limits such as education, gender, or age.
Man's rules of life are selfish, but Jesus' rule is selfless, actually taking into mind the well being of others. The rules of the world may appear to be similar to Jesus' rule, but they are as different as daylight and dark, the attendant consequences are also vastly different. Jesus' rule will work and benefit all, those who practice it and those regarding whom it is practiced. What a wonderful world this would be if all men put into practice the rule that Jesus gave to all men!