The Golden Rule is one of the most repeated religious teachings in the history of humanity: “As you would have others do to you, you also do to them.” [Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31] However, even most Christians could not tell you the context of the Golden Rule in the Gospel of Luke. The answer has a strong bearing on one of the greatest tests ever put before the Christian Church.
Jesus concluded his Mountain Teachings, as well as what is called his Plain Teachings, with a parable of a home builder. One “dug down deep” to lay a solid rock foundation, while the other merely built the house on dirt. When a great flood came the latter was destroyed in a enormous collapse, and the former built on a solid foundation endured the cataclysm. Jesus used this analogy to compare two types of listeners in the audience of his disciples [or, modern readers]. The first was the disciple who heard the teachings of Jesus and did them. The latter was the one who claimed to be a disciple, heard what Jesus taught, but did not follow through with action. [Compare Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46-49]
How does the Golden Rule determine what type of house Christians are building? The answer will come as a shock to most Christians. The answer will condemn the world-wide Christian Church as having built their house on sand.
Most Bible readers are familiar with the most famous sermon ever given - the Sermon on the Mount. It is found in Matthew 5-7. However, fewer are familiar with what is called the Plain Teachings in Luke chapter 6. These teachings were delivered by the Nazarene on another occasion and to an audience of his disciples. Read those words in their context containing the Golden Rule:
LK6:27 “Now I tell all of you listening to me -continue to show loving concern for your enemies. Continue to do good to those who keep hating you. LK6:28 Continue to bless those who keep cursing you. Continue to pray for those who keep insulting you. LK6:29 Offer your other cheek to the one slapping you on the cheek. When someone takes your outer garment do not hold back even an under garment. LK6:30 Continue to give to everyone who keeps asking you, and do not ask the person who takes your possessions to return them. LK6:31 Now just as you want people to do to you, you continue to do the same. LK6:32 And if you only continue to love those who love you -- what charity is there to that? LK6:33 And if you only continue to do good to those who keep doing good to you - what kind of charity is that? Even sinners do the very same thing! LK6:34 And if you ever lend [money] hoping to receive it back - what kind of charity is that? Even sinners keep lending [money] expecting an equal amount in return! LK6:35 Instead, all of you continue to show loving concern for your enemies. And continue doing good - continue lending [money] without expecting anything to be paid back. If you do your reward will be considerable, for you will become the Most High’s offspring, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. LK6:36 Continue to be charitable just as your Father is charitable. [NCMM]
By reading the context of Jesus’ sermon above it becomes clear what this Golden Rule involves - the love of your enemies! The Nazarene gives clear examples of what he means and how this love is to be demonstrated. Let us consider the different parts to our Lord’s teachings in these verses. Let us do this with the concluding parable of two different house-builders.
LUKE 6:27 “Now I tell all of you listening to me - continue to show loving concern for your enemies. Continue to do good to those who keep hating you.” [Nazarene Commentary 2000©]
Who are your “enemies”? Jesus parallels these with those “who keep hating you.” So your enemies are those who either hate you outright, or love you less than others. An “enemy” may be one who is just indifferent to you. That is, you are not their favorite person and these may be exposed as those who gossip and slander you, or completely ignore your needs. Jesus says to “continue to show loving concern” for them. The Greek construct here is of an action that continues. Luke puts the Greek AGAPATE in the Nazarene’s mouth. [For details on AGAPE see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.]
To these hateful “enemies” Jesus says to “continue to do good” to them.” The word love in the Bible has been defined as “seeking the highest good of another.” [William Barclay] It is not hard to know what is “good” when we think of how we would like to be treated. What would we consider something “good” done to us?
An example is demonstrated by Jesus in his parable of the “good” Samaritan. Samaritans were essentially enemies of the Jews and generally hated one another. If we experienced a robbing and mugging and were left half-dead in the gutter, would we not appreciate it if a stranger and supposed enemy came to our aid? [Luke 10:29-37] Given that, then is it not clear how we might be “good” to someone who thought us an enemy?
In this matter Jesus also includes how a “genuine disciple” responds to insults or verbal abuse. “Continue to bless,” says Jesus. He means to speak kindly and positively about the very person who has spitefully attacked you. Paul echoes the Nazarene when he counsels: “Bless persecutors. Continue blessing others and not cursing others.” [Romans 12:14 NCMM] Those who use freeways or highways may think of this when experiencing “road rage.” Peter points to our Lord as an example of not returning reviling for reviling. [1 Peter 2:23]
Luke 6:28 “Continue to bless those who keep cursing you. Continue to pray for those who keep insulting you. Luke 6:29 Offer your other cheek to the one slapping you on the cheek. When someone takes your outer garment do not hold back even an under garment.” [Nazarene Commentary 2000©]
Rather than return cursing for cursing, Jesus teaches “continue to bless those who keep cursing you.” Indeed, the real disciple will pray for those who are insulting. Paul writes in the same vein: “Do not repay harm with harm. Think good in advance regarding all persons.” [Romans 12:17 NCMM] Even if slapped in the face Jesus says to “turn the other cheek.” Reading the related phrases, the disciple of the Nazarene is never to react out of revenge, or getting even. The disciple of Jesus is not to resist authority, or to seek redress for theft or extortion.
Luke 6:30 “Continue to give to everyone who keeps asking you, and do not ask the person who takes your possessions to return them. Luke 6:31 Now just as you want people to do to you, you continue to do the same.” [Nazarene Commentary 2000©]
Jesus never qualifies these statements. It is true some will take advantage of the Christian because of this, but such will answer to the Judge. The whole spirit of the Lord’s teachings is one free of greed and revenge. One version renders this: “Demand no restitution.” [RIE] Another says: “Whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.” [NAS] It is interesting that it is right here in this immediate context Jesus mentions the Golden Rule again. Can there be any question that such a rule has to do with enemies? Could our Lord make it any clearer? This matter of doing unto others as we wished to be treated has to do with kindness to enemies, and particularly in the area of financial help.
Not only has the Christian Church failed in this matter of loving their enemies throughout almost two thousand years, they have often slaughtered them by the millions. How the Church has failed and the vast majority of its membership has proved to be those who built their houses on sand! How our Lord must be offended with so many Christians killing Christians, Christians torturing Christians, and Christians murdering innocent babies and children! But, some Christian will say: “I have not killed anyone and I love friends and family.” Is this real charity?
Luke 6:32 “And if you only continue to love those who love you -- what charity is there to that? Luke 6:33 And if you only continue to do good to those who keep doing good to you - what kind of charity is that? Even sinners do the very same thing! Luke 6:34 And if you ever lend [money] hoping to receive it back - what kind of charity is that? Even sinners keep lending [money] expecting an equal amount in return!” [Nazarene Commentary 2000©]
Such love is required by just human decency and good manners. Compare Paul’s opinion of those who do not: “But if any one -- especially household members -- does not provide for their own relatives, such a person has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” [1 Timothy 5:8 NCMM] A person’s manners and charity cannot be determined by conduct among friends. For Jesus follows up, “if you only continue to love those who love you,” with “what kind of charity is that”? The Greek word here is CHARIS which is also rendered thanks, credit, grace, merit. CHARIS is the word from which the English “charity” is drawn. Charity is an undeserved favor or kindness. Friends and family automatically deserve such favor or charity.
Jesus teaches that his disciples should not only give, but also not expect any repayment. So that a Christian never loans money - he or she gives it as a gift without strings. After love of enemies this is the most bone-jarring command Jesus makes. Few Christians have ever been able to obey it and as a whole the Church has failed. During the so-called Dark Ages the Church put the burden of usury on the Jews who then became the most important bankers in Europe. The Law of Moses forbid loans with interest to fellow Israelites, but permitted usury in dealings with non-Jews. [Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36, 37; Deuteronomy 23:19, 20; Psalm 15:5; Nehemiah 5:10, 11] Jesus prohibits it completely.
Luke 6:35 “Instead, all of you continue to show loving concern for your enemies. And continue doing good - continue lending [money] without expecting anything to be paid back. If you do your reward will be considerable, for you will become the Most High’s offspring, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:36 Continue to be charitable just as your Father is charitable. [Nazarene Commentary 2000©]
Jesus characterizes this love for enemies by three things: prayer, doing good, and financial gifts. If this is how enemies are to be treated what does the Master expect of treatment to fellow disciples. [Compare Galatians 6:10] Those who claim to be children of God must be characterized as those who continue to pray for their enemies, continue to do good to their enemies, and willingly give material gifts to their enemies without any agenda. Based on what has been said before, only those who would listen and obey Jesus’ teachings on these matters could ever be considered God’ children.
God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. He is not like some Christians who refuse to give to those who do not meet their standards for charity. The genuine disciple of Christ, in order to imitate God, cannot make judgments of people regarding whether charity will be shown or not. God is truly charitable. That is, merciful, compassionate, full of pity, empathetic. The English word “mercy” is drawn from the idea of giving or charity. The idea is to have mercy [compassion, empathy] for anyone in need no matter who they are, or even how they might use such kindness.
It is an awesome, even frightening thought, that just because a Christian believes Christ is Lord is not enough to gain his favor. The world is filled with millions of Lord-Lord-disciples who not only do not do what Jesus commands, but have never even really studied the Nazarene’s teachings. The image of a great river breaking its banks, collapsing a house, and washing it down river, comes to mind. In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord concluded with these words:
Not everyone saying to me, “Lord, Lord!” will enter the Heavenly Realm but the one doing the will of my heavenly Father. Many will say to me in The Day: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? And, in your name cast out demons? And, in your name did many dynamic works?” And then I shall confess to them: “I never knew you! Get away from me, those working unlawfully! So, everyone who hears these words of mine and does them, will be like a smart person who built a house upon a solid Rock. And the rain came down and the rivers flood and the winds blew and it did not fall. For it was founded on that solid Rock. And, everyone hearing these words of mine and not doing them will be like a stupid person who built a house on sand. And the rain came down and the rivers flood and the winds blew and struck that house! And it fell! And the fall was great! [Matthew 7:21-27 NCMM]
The God of our Lord Jesus bless how we build! Are we not glad we continue to build on the solid foundation of obedience to the Nazarene’s teachings?
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
Back to Index to Biblical Articles