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The Golden Rule

Date: Jan. 17, 2016

Author: Michael Mark

Matthew 7:1-12

Key Verse: 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.”

Welcome back to our second study now, after the holidays, in the gospel of Matthew.  We are continuing to work our way through the Sermon on the Mount, and after this week there is one more week left.  Just for review, the Sermon on the Mount is the Sermon of the Kingdom of God.  At a very high level, it can be divided into 3 parts: the nature of the kingdom, the laws of the kingdom, and getting into the kingdom.  We are concluding the largest section, the part about the laws of the kingdom, which began in Matt 5:17.  This section can be divided into 2 general parts.  The first part is where Jesus expounds on laws that his disciples may have already been familiar with.  He begins 6 times with “You have heard that it was said,” and talks about murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, vengeance and enemies.  The second part of the laws of the kingdom are about righteous practices and rewards.  Here Jesus talks about the righteous practices such as giving, prayer and fasting.  Last week we learned about the attitude of God’s people towards God, in seeking him first, and storing up treasures in heaven that he provides.  Today we will learn about the attitude of God’s people toward others, to wrap up this section on the laws of the kingdom.

So what should be our attitude towards others?  How should we treat other people?  Has anyone heard of the Golden Rule?  It is a proverb, or a wise teaching on how we should treat one another.  Many cultures have some form of the Golden Rule, so there seems to be across cultures across the world some universal, moral code.  It is the rule on how to treat each other right.  Here are some examples.  In Egypt, a papyrus dated between 600 to 300 BC says, “That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”  Confucius wrote, in China, around 500 BC, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”  Thales, considered to be the first philosopher in the Greek tradition, wrote (some time around 600 BC), “Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.”  These were words from some of the greatest minds in civilization, maybe even in history.  It seems to be a law that God has written on all of men’s hearts.  But can it be obeyed?  Has it been obeyed?  The testimony of world history suggests it has not been.  In today’s passage, around 30 AD, Jesus declares the Golden Rule – a rule that didn’t just come into existence when he taught it in the Sermon on the Mount, but it is a rule that existed from the beginning of the earth.  Jesus said in Matt 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.”  The Golden Rule is God’s rule, it is the sum of his Law, and all people are expected to live up to it, but all have failed.  Through this passage we will see one way, the one and only way that we can receive power to live up to this ideal command about treating others right.

Coming back to the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ teaching on the attitude towards others, look at v.1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”  Here Jesus is saying, “If you do judge someone, you are really judging yourself.  If you do condemn someone, you are really condemning yourself.”  The command given in Matt 7:1 is expanded in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  Jesus may have been indirectly addressing the Pharisees, who would condemn innocent people for small things, such as not ceremonially washing their hands, or eating improperly on the Sabbath.  But also, many Jews that tried to follow the law and who learned from these teachers of the law may have also been prone to judging others.  Maybe something similar today would be American pride.  Everywhere you go, you might think, “I’m an American, oh yeah!”  “America!”  We used to have a poor relationship with France, and I don’t know if it’s because we were judging them, or they were judging us.

We can see more specifically what type of judgmental people Jesus had in mind, in v.3-4, where he says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”  Jesus specifically had in mind those who see little faults, or little sins in others, but were themselves living in gross sin.  All sins are bad, but there are some sins that are worse than others.  The speck refers to little sins, and the plank represents big sins, although Jesus is exaggerating here to make a point.  Imagine a man with a cutting board coming out of his eye, but then trying to take a little speck of sawdust in his brother’s eye.  It represents someone who living in deep sin trying to correct someone in a minor sin.  It is like the Pharisees who condemned Jesus, saying, he eats with tax collectors and sinners, while they themselves are a bunch of sinners.  It’s like someone who drinks whiskey every day, but condemns a person who had a beer.  I myself am guilty of judgment.  One time I condemned my dad, and it hurt him until the day he died.  We were having lunch together, and he asked me if I could give him a few dollars.  I became annoyed and indignant, and out of my anger I told him that he shouldn’t be asking me for more money, that he’s living a life of luxury because he has a home and he gets fed and he didn’t have a job or have to work like I did.  But he was living in a nursing home, shared a room with 1 or two other sick people, had a 12 inch old fashioned TV, and all of his belongings could fit into the back of my car.  He wasn’t the one living in luxury, I was.  I live in a townhouse with more rooms than I can use, own two cars, have a 42 inch flat screen HD TV, and take a vacation or two each year.  I condemned my father when my own love for money was far worse than his.

So what does Jesus say to people like this?  To people like me?  Look at v.5, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  Jesus says, “You hypocrite!”  And that is what I am.  I had a plank in my own eye, but I was trying to remove the speck from my father’s eye.  Jesus says to first take the plank out of your own eye, then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  Our sins, no matter how big or small they are, should look like planks because they are right there in our eyes.  Everyone has sins, because everyone is a sinner.  To remove the plank from our eyes, we need to acknowledge our sins, and repent of them.  Only then can we see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye.  Notice that Jesus does not forbid correcting someone if they are wrong.  In fact the loving thing to do is to turn a sinner from the error of their way.  But Jesus requires our own hearts to be cleansed, and he requires that the correction not be in the spirit of condemnation.  That is, when you correct someone, do it humbly, and gently, in love.  Gal 6:1 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”  It’s like a parent correcting a child – the parent is not judging them or picking on them, even if it seems tough, it is out of true love, and not condemnation.

But Jesus, knowing the hearts of men, also warns against some people who cannot take correction.  Look at v.6, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”  Who are the dogs and pigs?  They are godless people, people who’s lives are full of sin and will not hear anything related to God.  The pearls are godly wisdom.  They could be words of correction, it might be words revealing to them that they have sinned against God.  But what will they do with it?  They will trample on it, they will hate those words, and then they will throw them back at you, and insult you.  Prov 9:8 says, “Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.”  Prov 23:9 says, “Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words.”  Jesus allowed for his disciples to correct one another, but he also had their safety and well-being in mind, and warned them about giving godly truth to those who have hard hearts and take offense at anything godly.  For example, you would not go to an atheist conference and then start preaching the gospel there.  They will take your words and throw them back in your face.  But, if there is an atheist who is beginning to wonder about the truth and wants to listen, by all means tell them the good news.

How can we receive wisdom to correct someone spiritually?  Have you tried to do that?  To me it seems like a difficult thing to do.  It’s hard enough to tell someone they are wrong in other areas.  Not only that, but how do you know if they are ready to receive correction?  Before all of this, how do you remove the plank from your eye?  We need wisdom, and we need God’s grace.  Thankfully Jesus again shows the way.  Look at v.7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  These are three different ways to say pray.  Jesus is saying pray, pray, pray, each time with increasing intensity and urgency.  Jesus says pray, pray consciously, and pray continually.  To ask is the just pray.  Just do it.  To seek is the pray consciously, to pray intentionally, to pray with a goal in mind, and to pray looking for something.  It’s like looking around the house for your lost keys or some lost coins.  To seek is to pray looking for something.  You could even say that you would seek God in prayer.  To knock is to pray continually, to keep coming, to knock at the door until someone answers.  To knock is to persevere and be persistent in prayer.

God gives you a promise when you pray.  Look at v.8, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Look at who this promise is for: it’s for everyone!  Everyone is commanded to pray.  What a gracious command this is!  There are soup kitchens that provide hot soup for the homeless, and that soup is a blessing, but the homeless voluntarily come, they are not commanded to go.  The Lord provides all things, he can provide, and he wants to provide, and he has even commanded us to go to him to get provision, and he gives us these promises.  Everyone who asks, receives.  The one who seeks finds.  The one who seeks the Lord will find him.  This is not the only place in the Bible that says this.  Jer 29:11-13 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  The same promise is given in Deut 4:29, and even in Heb 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  So we pray with faith, and we earnestly seek him, and he believe he rewards those who do.  And Jesus invites us to come and knock, to knock on his door.  And it will be opened.  You yourself would not open your door to strangers.  You open the door for friends, and for family.  You are not a stranger to God, but a friend, and are invited to his door.

These promises sound wonderful, almost too good to be true, but Jesus goes on further to show us that we can trust God, that we can depend on him.  Look at v.9-12, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you then, though you are evil, give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.”  Look at the relationship between a father and his son, take any father and son combo.  Sh. Bob & Dave, Dan & Lukey, Gideon & Junmo, Msn. Daniel and Danny, Orlando and Little Orlando – how much do they love their sons?  Where does this love come from?  It is a reflection of the love that God has for his children.  God’s love for his children is as real as the love of all of these fathers for their children.  And how much do these fathers love their kids?  Which one would be so cruel as to give their sons stones instead of bread.  “Hey Dave, here’s your rock and snake sandwich.  I mean bread and fish.”  There is some remnant of good that God has instilled into fathers, that they could not dream of doing harmful things to their children.

Look again at v.11, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  Jesus doesn’t play around here, he tells it like it is.  At the very core, dads, moms, children, you are evil.  The truth is, you are sinful, sinful by nature, because sometimes, not all the time, you can be judgmental, you can be selfish, and these are the evidence of indwelt sin.  Yet still you know how to give good gifts to your children.  So how much more, how much more can God, who has no sin, who is infinitely loving, wise, gracious, compassionate, holy and good, give good gifts.  And verse 11 does not just say that he can do it, but how much more will he do it!  And who does he give good gifts to?  He gives to those who ask.  Those who do not ask, will not receive.  But those who ask, will receive.

And what does he give?  He gives good gifts.  He gives us comfort, he gives us peace.  He gives us protection from the evil one, he gives us strength, and he gives us wisdom.  He gives us our daily bread, he provides for us what we need – food, clothes.  He knows what is best for us, more than we know.  He knows us more than we know ourselves.  He knows the number of hairs on our head.  Even if his child should ask for a rock to eat, God will not give his child a rock that will smash all his teeth.  God will give the child bread.  So sometimes God will not give us what we ask for, if what we ask for will hurt us.  But be assured that he hears and will continue to hear your prayer.  But we also have to ask with the right motive.  A father would not give money to his child if he knew it was going to be used to buy cigarettes.  We can ask, and we should ask God to increase our ministry, to increase our knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ, but what is the motive.  Is the motive for our own glory, or for his?  If it is for our own glory, he will not grant that request.  But be assured God also knows what’s best.  I had an uncle who was critically sick, and Mary and I prayed to God every day that he would recover, but in two weeks he passed.  It was sad that he passed, but I was encouraged to hear that he asked a priest to come and pray and read Scripture with him every day while he was in the hospital.  But what’s more, it was an opportunity for my family to face the reality of death, but also to hear the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ who has won the victory over death. 

If we ask with right motives, if we ask in accordance with his will, he will give us what we ask for.  Jesus said to his disciples in John 15:7-8, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  So what do we receive?  Whatever we ask for, and whatever we need.  God gives us our daily bread, food to eat every day.  God gives us clothes to keep warm.  God gives us our jobs, the skills we need to do our jobs, and he gives us our strength and our health.  God gives us wisdom for the decisions we need to make every day, wisdom for school and wisdom for work.  In fact, we are encouraged to ask freely for wisdom.  James 1:5-6 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who give generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt…”  God gives generously to all, without finding fault.

In addition to all these and more, but here now are the best gifts God has given to us.  Look again at v.11, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  Though you are evil, though you are from birth born a sinner against God, he held nothing back, and gave you his most precious gift – his one and only Son, Jesus Christ.  Rom 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  John 3:16, as many of you know, says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  God gave us his Son, so that he might give us his righteousness.  We have no righteousness of our own, but God give us the righteousness of Christ by his death on the cross for our sins.  Christ took away our sins, therefore Christ took away the plank in our eye.  Jesus Christ reconciled us to God, and through him we have been invited, no commanded, to come and pray and receive what we ask for.  He is the assurance that God answers our prayers.  Rom 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  Come, and ask, seek and knock.  God will give us the Holy Spirit, to empower us to live as children of his kingdom, and give us power to do and practice righteousness.

So what now?  What are we to do with all these good gifts?  Shall we put them in the closet to collect dust?  Shall we store them away in the attic?  Of course not!  If you got a new Playstation 4 for Christmas, what would you do with it?  You would use it!  So what should we do?  Let’s all read v.12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus says in everything.  Whether you eat or drink, whether at work or play, in church or out, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.  Help others, support others, pray for others, fellowship with others, eat with others.  Love one another.  This sums up the Law and the Prophets.  This is the sum of all of God’s law – boiled down to this: love one another.  Love is the law of the land, given by the king.  Jesus said to his disciples (John 13:34):  “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.”  That is the golden rule.  The world cannot practice the golden rule, because it is in bondage to sin.  But Christ has set us free from sin, and gives us everything we need so that we may love one another.  Oh that you would come to Christ, and ask of him, so that you may receive power to live according to the golden rule, to love one another, to the glory of God!

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