The Golden Rule

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus spoke these words near the end of his teaching that we refer to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” As a rabbi, and as one deeply committed to scripture, Jesus’s words are telling. Note that he
invokes “the Law” in this statement. For Jews, the Law is everything. It is absolutely central to the practice of faith and to daily living. It is the Law that was then—and remains to this day—the most
important section of scripture in the Jewish world. The five books of Moses—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—are foundational. Nothing else compares to them in the
Jewish mind.

Jesus also invokes “the Prophets.” Though not fully on par with the Law, the Prophets hold a very high place in Judaism (still today, the Prophets receive a great deal of attention in synagogue worship, but they are not given reverence on the same level as is the Law). But in mentioning both “the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus expresses the signal importance of the way in which human beings relate to one another. As if chapter five—with its description of a variety of scenarios regarding an appropriate relational ethic—were not enough, Jesus deems it necessary to offer inspired, godly wisdom in a brief, memorable phrase. He gives us a proverb—a proverb that is likely the most well know in all of human history. He says it is best that we treat other people the way in which we ourselves would prefer to be treated. This, he declares, is the culmination of all of scripture (the Law and the Prophets).

The “Golden Rule” is powerful, and, when followed, is effective. It brings people together, and it gives us a further glimpse of the kingdom of God.


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