The Golden Rule

Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people”

God has seen the rise and fall of many empires in the past and present. Most historians agree that an empire’s progressive corruption will lead to its later downfall. A telltale sign: The nation or empire does not care about the rest of the world and only fosters matters of national self-interest. It wants to grow bigger and bigger in order to dominate other nations instead of collaborating with them. Favoritism of rich people is another sign of progressive corruption. Deference to the upper classes while neglecting the needs of the poor brings division and encourages criminal activity. Lack of interest in the next generation further promotes the downward trend. Trashing the environment for example is not acting in the best interest of our children and children’s children.

Unfortunately, the battle for dominance has been raging on for generations. To bring peace to our world, we need an empire of a different kind. Instead of the kingdom of man we need the kingdom of God, a kingdom based on righteousness. Righteousness or ethical conduct is best described in the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself. Interestingly, the concept of the Golden Rule occurs in nearly every religion and ethical tradition of the world, which leads me to believe that God has been openly promoting the Golden Rule all throughout human history:

  • The Instruction of Ankhsheshonq, an ancient Egyptian papyrus copy from the Ptolemaic period (332–30 BCE although its content could be from earlier times) contains an early negative affirmation of the Golden Rule: “Do not do to a man what you dislike, so as to cause another to do it to you.” Source: Ankhsheshonq 15.23; weblink:
  • The Sanskrit tradition of ancient India provides a reference from “The Mahābhārata,” known as the longest epic poem ever written: “Hence, by self-control and by making dharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself.”  Source: The Mahābhārata; Author: Vyasa; Verses: 200,000; Religion: Hinduism; weblink:
  • In Ancient Greece, Socrates (436-338 BCE) wrote: “Do not do unto others what angers you if done to you by others.”
  • In Ancient Persia the Pahlavi Texts of Zoroastrianism say: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself.”     Source: The Pahlavi Texts of Zoroastrianism (300 BCE – 1000 CE); weblink:
  • The following is excerpted from The Life of a Shawnee by W. L. Mundell: “Do not kill or injure your neighbor, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself. But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own. Do not wrong or hate your neighbor, for it is not him that you wrong, you wrong yourself. But love him, for Moneto loves him also as he loves you.” Source: Native American, the Shawnee – Merceronline; weblink:
  • Lastly, in Judaism and Christianity the Bible spells out a number of rules of fair conduct, such as in Matthew 7:22: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Specifically, in the Law of Moses we find the following instructions (Leviticus 19:18): “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

We uplift our nation when we live out the Golden Rule; and we can love our neighbor as ourselves when we know that God loves us.

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 triple the usual amount. Picking grapes around the clock, they were still falling behind schedule. Winter chills were in the air, and those grapes had to be harvested. So the landowner decided to hire additional pickers to bring the remaining crop in.

Early in the morning the landowner started hiring and offered a very generous pay. Highly motivated, the pickers went right to work. As the day wore on, more and more crop workers joined the crew – in the morning, mid-morning, around noon, in the afternoon, and late in the afternoon. – They had exactly one hour of daylight left when the last pickers arrived. Apparently the land owner had made up his mind to get every last grape picked by the end of the day.

And so it happened. The crop workers picked the vineyard clean right before the Sun went down, and they were done for the day. At a table near the exit the landowner sat down to hand out a full day’s of wages. Starting with his most recent hires, he gave the same pay to every worker. Celebration was in the air; everybody was happy – except for the guys who were hired first. They began to complain to each other: “This is not fair! We have done most of the work, why should everybody receive the same amount of pay?” – “Do you have a problem with my generosity?” The landowner asked the incensed crop workers, and this is how the story ends.

“Do to others what you would have them do to you” is the Golden Rule in a nutshell. Jealousy changes it to: “I’ve done this for you, now I expect you to do this for me.” That’s no Golden Rule, that’s blackmail.

Busy comparing, jealousy nourishes a constant undercurrent of unhappiness. Personally I think the Golden Rule does not work if we don’t know God. Basking in God’s love we are rich – and won’t have a problem with His generosity.