Sermon On The Mount Devotional Blog 27

Sermon On The Mount Devotional

The Golden Rule

Read Matthew 7:12 (ESV)

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

What did you learn in Kindergarten? Years ago author Robert Fulghum wrote a book titledAll I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. His premise was that the basic teachings that we received as kindergartners are really the rules for life. He put forward sixteen rules for living:

“1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don't hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
6. Don't take things that aren't yours.
7. Say you're SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life - learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first work you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.” 
While many of these are said rather tongue-in-cheek, many are good life lessons. When I was in Kindergarten, I remember learning one rule for living and that was our passage here, the Golden Rule.

In the history of societies many have had a rule similar to the one put forward by Jesus, but theirs were presented in the negative. Phrased negatively, the Golden Rule reads: Do not do anything to anyone that you would not want them to do to you. This is a passive reading -Just don’t do anything bad. This phrasing focuses on what is good for oneself, not on the good of others.

The Golden Rule though is phrased positively. Christ presented the truth positively by saying, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” This is the active aspect. Do good to others, focusing on others’ wellbeing.

This was a new teaching.  It had never been said this way before. To express the rule in the positive way was to make it much more difficult. “… it is possible for a man to discipline himself so that he does not hurt others, primarily because he does not want them to hurt him… He wants to keep peace, but he wants to do so primarily so that he will be able to keep on with the work of satisfying his own selfish needs and desires… But a man can do what Jesus says only if his mind is entirely off himself and fixed at all moments on the needs, cares, loves, joys, hopes, and dreams of other people.” (The Sermon on the Mount by Jim Boice pg. 242-243)

These positive and negative aspects of the Golden Rule seem to go hand in hand with what Christ has been battling here in the Sermon on the Mount. Throughout the Sermon, Christ has been speaking against the Pharisees who have stated through their own teachings that the law and the prophets can be kept, with effort. Christ came to expose their interior - their dead hearts and their religion. Christ showed that man’s heart and his motives are corrupt and must be changed. Only the one who has had their(his) heart changed by Christ can now live what is in the Sermon on the Mount.

Remember in kindergarten when you began to learn to color inside the lines? Remember perhaps how you were shown how to use a ruler to draw a straight edge? It was amazing to see two children walk to the board to see who could draw a line the straightest. Perhaps your teacher then took a long ruler and placed it on the board and drew a truly straight line. This new ruler-drawn line was truly straight compared to the free-drawn line. “Men draw the lines of human character and then compare the lines to see whose line is straightest. But then God enters and produces his straightedge, and we see that all human lines of character are crooked.” (pg. 244)

Man tries to make a standard of goodness (his own hand-drawn line). He then does his best to try and live up to it. Or he looks at the standard given in the Sermon on the Mount and mistakenly assumes that this is a pattern for how to gain salvation, and he assumes he can live it. Scripture teaches that the standard for salvation is an infinitely straight line (living up to God’s law perfectly in thought, word and deed, always). Jesus came and lived the standard (God’s straight line) perfectly and offers it to us freely. We must confess our own attempts at goodness and accept His perfect keeping of the law in our place. Now, through the continuous working of the Holy Spirit, we are being changed each day so that we can and want to live out the tenets of the Sermon on the Mount. In the following quote James Boice references Philippians 1:6:

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God will not quit. Hence, the Golden Rule (as well as all of the SOM) is as much a statement of where God is taking the Christian and it is a standard by which the goodness of the natural man is judged. What will it be? Will you flail away at that or some other standard and be judged by it? Or will you surrender to Christ, letting God enter your life and remaking you into his image? If you let him, he will turn you into the kind of being who really will think first of others and will reflect back to God, like a pure mirror, some of his own limitless glory, power, love, and goodness. The process may be painful at times, but it will be certain. And you will not miss the goal.” (pg. 246)

So, What Now?

By God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, for whom can you model the Golden Rule today.