“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
The memory is probably emblazoned most vividly onto the collective consciousness of baby boomers. Hollywood westerns filled imaginations and fueled endless renditions of cattle rustlers, horse chases, and men who apparently never missed with a Colt .45 revolver. Even today, the theme song from Bonanza sparks nostalgia among the middling bunch who count themselves not yet old but emphatically no longer young.
In almost every television series of that genre—and in no small number of movies—some nefarious villain in what we might call a counterfeit scam would dupe the good guys. After the requisite horse chase and gun battle, the punch line would be delivered. Cello music and a close-up would signal the impending denouement. “Why Marshal, that there is fool’s gold! It’s worthless.” They’d been had. All the effort was for something that looked valuable but really was only a bag of shiny rocks.
Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a remarkable statement. It is so often referenced and so well known that even non-believers can quote The Golden Rule. And while it makes for a memorable sound bite, we often substitute a different idea entirely for what the Lord really meant. And we, like the hapless marshal, have struggled to gain value from the wrong gold—from the fool’s gold of selfishness masquerading as biblical truth.
If we are honest, do we not often apply this profound summary of scriptural teaching as though what it really says is, “Do unto others so that they will do unto you?” We read the text and behave as though the Lord is pointing to some divinely ordained quid pro quo, and so our motives become self-serving and self-seeking. When the “others” do not come through on the bargain, we puff up with pride or anger. Both are worthless to grow in righteousness.
Well, how do we unlock the treasure chest of Matthew 7:12? What is the real gold of the Golden Rule? What is the key?
Notice how the verse begins. The Lord says, “So…” That means the Golden Rule is a conclusion. It is the finish to what has just been said. And what is that?
Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7: 7-11
The gold of the rule is that those who abide in Christ have all they need from their Heavenly Father. And because of that, we are free to love those around us with a love that has no hidden agenda and no fear. We love because we have first been loved, and it is in the very “doing unto others” part that the Gospel in us shines out from us.
So indeed, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them because you have received the treasure of God’s love in Christ. The true gold is already yours.