Although many believe Jesus coined the phrase in his Sermon on the Mount, this isn’t true. Confucius and Epicurus who lived before Jesus, had a similar version of this rule.
"What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others." — Confucius (ca. 551–479 BCE)
"Neither to harm, nor be harmed."— Epicurus (c. 350 BCE)
Still, Jesus said this Golden Rule “sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12), which were written before these two men.
The Biblical Origin of “Do unto Others as You Would Have Them Do unto You”
The only childhood story of Jesus in the Bible (outside His birth) is when His family went to Jerusalem for the Passover. After the festival was over and His family headed home, they discovered Jesus wasn’t with them. Going back to Jerusalem to look for Him they found Him in the temple engaged in discussionwith the religious leaders and teachers of the law. His parents were surprised, but He expressed that He was simply where He belonged.
“But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 NLT)
Although Jesus was the Word made flesh, He made Himself a student of the law. In the book of Leviticus, a core book of the law, we find another variation of what we call The Golden Rule.
“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”(Leviticus 19:33-34 )
Jesus more than studied these words—as God, He is their source and embodied them.
What Jesus Said about the Golden Rule
In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said repeatedly “You have heard that it was said…but I tell you.” Jesus wasn’t correcting the law; He was illuminating the Spirit of the law—the life and meaning behind it.
There are two places the Bible documents where Jesus spoke the words we call The Golden Rule.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)
“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.” (Matthew 7:12, KJV)
Take note of that last line—for this is the law and the prophets. Let’s see it in another version.
“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, NIV)
Other versions (NLT) say: “this is the essence.”
And another (GNT) says: “this is the meaning.”
Jesus used this Golden Rule to sum up the meaning of the law and the prophets.
What the Golden Rule Reveals about God’s Love
Jesus wasn’t simply giving us a rule to follow. He was unveiling the purity of God’s love and the depravity of the human heart. Jesus said:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”(Matthew 5:17)
Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). Jesus fulfilled the law and demonstrated this love (John 15:13) by laying down His life for us. The Golden Rule tells us to walk in this kind of love.
When Jesus told His disciples:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
They expected to be able to do it. But Jesus knew better. Humanity is not capable of loving the way God loves without the help of God Himself. John puts it beautifully in 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”
To “Do unto others,” as the Bible instructs, means to receive love from God and give it to others—also known as The Royal Law (James 2:8).
Danielle Bernock is an international, award-winning author. Her works include: Emerging With Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, And The LOVE that Heals, A Bird Named Payn, and Love’s Manifesto. Her new book Because You Matter: How to Take Ownership of Your Life so You Can Really Live will be released September, 15th 2019. For more information or to connect with Danielle at https://www.daniellebernock.com/
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Gift Habeshaw