Let’s begin with a little quiz. Which of the following statements best expresses the concept of what is traditionally referred to as “The Golden Rule”?
- Do unto others as they do unto you
- Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you
- Whatever you do unto others will be done unto you
- Whoever has the gold makes the rules
Many people choose how to treat others based on Statement A. If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. If you do something bad to me, I’ll get you back. However, as followers of Christ, we’re expected to do better than this. Jesus taught earlier in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5:38-47) that we as His followers shouldn’t limit ourselves to just loving those who love us and we shouldn’t be seeking “an eye for an eye” when we’ve been mistreated. Statement A is clearly not the golden rule.
Statement B is, of course, the traditional golden rule. It is based on another statement of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:
“All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12)
It’s easy to see why this works if done correctly. You’re putting yourself in the other person’s position. So, if you’re satisfied being treated in a certain way, it’s reasonable to assume that others would be OK with the same type of treatment. If you wouldn’t like it if someone did a certain thing to you, others probably won’t care for it if you do that same thing to them either.
The golden rule — it’s pretty basic Christianity. We all live this way and get along well with everybody, right? Well, maybe most of the time. Well, maybe sometimes. Well, you know, there are those people who just make it so difficult. Actually, considering how basic of a concept this is, it seems like many people tend to struggle with it.
Maybe Statement C is how it should work. If I know that whatever I do to someone else will be done to me, perhaps that would give me incentive to treat others properly. On the one hand, this doesn’t really work in practice (note the number of people who commit crimes against others, in spite of knowing what the penalty will be).
But, on the other hand, as followers of Christ, we don’t need incentives in this life (so God doesn’t offer them). If we’re serving the Lord, we should be treating others in the right way because it’s the right thing to do — not to avoid a punishment (or to earn a reward) in this life but solely because it’s what God wants us to do. The Holy Ghost within us should be inspiring us to treat others properly, using the golden rule as a guideline.
But, what about the scriptures (such as Galatians 6:7-9 and 2 Nephi 13:10-11) that say, “you reap what you sow”? Don’t these seem to give some validity to Statement C, that what you reap (what comes to you in life) matches up with whether or not you’re doing good things?
Actually, if you read those scriptures carefully, it’s clear that they are referring to what we will reap in the life to come. That’s when the servants of God will receive an eternal reward, inheriting a mansion in the place where the streets are paved with gold. On that great judgment day, all will realize — and God’s servants will be eternally grateful — that He who has the heavenly gold is the One who makes the rules.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.