Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

In one of my favorite stories, Jesus talks about a certain landowner who had a record year. His vineyard had produced a large amount of grapes. They had been picking grapes until the cows came home, and they were still falling behind schedule. Now it was way down in the fall, and those grapes had to be picked pronto! So the landowner decided to hire some additional crop workers just for a day or two to get this taken care of.

He started hiring early in the morning, and those guys went right to work. He had offered them good pay, a rather generous amount of money really. “This is a great opportunity to catch up on some bills”, one of the crop workers remarked as they started picking grapes. “Well then – pick away!” the other jokingly said.

As the day went on, more and more crop workers joined them in the morning, mid-morning, around noon, in the afternoon, and even late in the afternoon. A few more guys came in at the very last hour. This landowner apparently was serious about getting the job done!

And so it happened. The crop workers picked every last grape off that vineyard. Then the Sun went down, and they were done for the day. The landowner sat at a table near the exit of his property to hand out their day’s wages, and everybody received their money. Celebration was in the air; everybody was happy, except the guys who were hired first. As it turned out, every crop worker received the same amount, and so they began to murmur among themselves: “Wait a minute! Those guys came in at the very last hour and now they receive the same wages?!” – “Do you have a problem with my generosity?” The landowner asked the incensed crop workers, and here is where the story ends.

Jealous people are no fun! They take the Golden Rule for instance and measure it against you. Secretly they think:

“I’ve done this for you, now I expect you to do this for me.”

That’s no Golden Rule, that’s blackmail.

Jealous people aren’t really that happy either, because they are busy comparing. Unlike arrogant people who think they are better than the rest of the world, jealous people feel somehow slighted; they habitually think that in most regards they come out short, and they clearly don’t like it.

If a group of jealous people had a conversation with Jesus and Jesus would ask them pointblank: “What is up with you guys? Is there anything I can do to help? You don’t seem to enjoy life very much.” Their answer would sound something like this: “How about some fairness when you created us! You have lathered some with gifts and talents, and others you seem to have overlooked. Give to us as you have given to others, that is Your Golden Rule, right?” Jesus looked at each of them compassionately before He answered their question with a question of His own: “Why would you have a problem with my generosity?”

The Golden Rule is not so golden when misinterpreted!

We’re golden if we stop comparing and start with some self-respect. I respect myself and guess what: I find myself respecting others.

We’re golden if we stop comparing and start with some appreciation of ourselves. I appreciate my gifts and talents and what do you know: all of a sudden I find myself discovering and appreciating other people’s gifts and talents.

The Golden Rule works like magic – if we start at our own front door. Learning to love and appreciate ourselves we’re prone to love and appreciate others.

Proverbs 14:34: “Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”

God is talking politics here. I find it interesting that God is not only interested in people, but also in peoples and nations. Politically speaking, God has seen the rise and fall of many empires in the past and present. Historians will agree that the rise and fall of empires has a lot to do with increasing corruption of people’s integrity undermining the political systems and eventually causing the end of empires. What is true for one person is just as true for a group of people or a nation: Godliness makes a person great, godliness also makes a nation great. Sin is a disgrace to a person, and on a national level sin leads to a nation’s downfall.

Godliness or ethical conduct is best defined in the Golden Rule. This concept actually occurs in some form in nearly every religion and ethical tradition, which makes me wonder whether God Himself has been promoting the Golden Rule worldwide, who knows?

In ancient Egypt a late period papyrus (664 BC – 323 BC) contains an early negative affirmation of the Golden Rule: “That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”

In ancient India the Sanskrit tradition says to treat others as you treat yourself.

In ancient Greece Isocrates (436-338 BC) says: “Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you.”

Ancient Persia: (300-1000 AD) “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself.”

In ancient Rome Seneca the Younger (4 BC – 654 AD) expressed the Golden Rule regarding the treatment of slaves: “Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you.”

Lastly, in Judaism and Christianity the Bible spells out a number of rules of fair conduct, such as: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) or “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18).

One wonders how the concept of the Golden Rule translates into reality; if one person has trouble following the Golden Rule, how could an entire nation?

Following the Golden Rule requires a change of heart, and only God can do that. On a national level the same applies, which means that people involved in the decision making process would need a change of heart to seek God’s counsel in order to promote national welfare. If this does not happen, an all too familiar downward trend occurs in any empire in the history of mankind. Below is an inconclusive list of the telltale signs:

  • National self-absorbedness: The nation or empire does not care about the rest of the world. It only fosters matters of national self-interest.
  • Power hunger – The nation or empire wants to grow bigger and dominate more people instead of collaborating with other nations.
  • Favoritism of rich people and the upper class and lack of support of the poor and the disadvantaged is the mantra.
  • Lack of interest in the next generation by neglecting education and trashing the environment is another major issue.
  • In the last stage of disintegration of a nation, the people become demoralized and corrupt leading to the ultimate demise of a nation or empire.

Big things always start small. Jesus used the illustration of a minute mustard seed growing into a big tree. Similarly, the change of a nation’s political direction starts with the change of heart of one person at a time. The Golden Rule starts with you and me, and I personally believe it starts with prayer. Praying for a new heart is the beginning of positive change. Prayer changes the world inside of us – and eventually the world all around us.

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. No message could have been any clearer: If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change” (Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett)