Other Teachings and the Golden Rule

 

 

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Other Teachings and the Golden Rule

Text: Matthew 7:1-12

Dr. Alex Tang

 

Summary

 

To live out the Golden Rule, to be non-judgmental in our relationships with other people yet be discerning, we need to persistently pray to be filled and moved by the Holy Spirit.

 

"Does not judge or you too will be judged? For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "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? 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.

"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 then turn and tear you to pieces.

 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you, if his 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, 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! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for these sums up the Law and the Prophets.

 

1.                  The Sermon on the Mount so far…

In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord started with describing the characteristics of people who will become members of the kingdom of heaven. The characteristics are the beatitudes. In concerns the inner attitudes of the spiritual life rather than the outward behaviour of the person. Our Lord Jesus emphasised that He did not come to set the Law aside but that He is the fulfillment of the Law. He went onto to tell of the impact Christians will have on society, as salt to preserve and light to drive away the darkness. As illustration, He gave six examples of the inner attitudes; murder, adultery, divorces, oaths, eye for an eye and loving enemies. In the next section of the sermon, our Lord Jesus taught on the relationship of Christians with their Father in heaven and their living in the world. He reminded them that the Father in heaven sees and knows all; in their treatment of the poor, their prayers, their fast, their attachment to the things of this world and their insecurity that leads to worrying. Now we come to the final section of his sermon before He concludes in which he talks about the Golden Rule or how Christians to live with other people.

 

2.                  Be not Judgmental in your Dealings with Others (v. 1-5)

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "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? 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

Two examples from the Bible.

David’s example 2 Samuel 12:1-11

The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity."

Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'

 "This is what the LORD says: `Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.' “Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die."

An excellent illustration for the verse. David judged self-righteousness and is judged in his turn. He can see the speck in the rich man’s eye but not the plank of adultery and murder in his own eyes.

The Pharisee’s example: Luke 18: 9-14

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts he will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

·        Do not be too judgmental of others.

·        We are not God

·        We are sinners

·        The root of being judgmental of others is Self-righteousness

Is it possible for us non to be judgmental of others? Is it possible for us not to be self-righteous in our dealings with others?

 

3.                  Be Discerning about Spiritual Things (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 then turn and tear you to pieces.

The Jews do not keep dogs as pets. These dogs referred to are the wild dogs, scavenging from the rubbish dumps, vicious and will attack humans. The Jews regard pigs as unclean animals.

·        Jesus does not mean that Christians are not to judge at all.

·        Need to be discerning.

·        Different people different approach. These people whom Jesus referred to as 'dogs' and 'pigs' are people whom were given much opportunity to hear the gospel but rejected it. Not only do they reject it, they also viciously attack the messengers.

·        Enough is enough. Christians must have the spiritual discernment to know when to move on to more fertile fields. Not all people will be saved. At all people will respond favorably to the gospels. Some will react violently.

Jesus during his trials answered Pontus Pilate but kept silent with King Herod.

Acts 13:46

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

Acts 18:6

But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."

Is it possible to us to truly discern who are the spiritual ‘dogs’ and ‘pigs’?

 

4.                  Be Persistent in Your Prayers for the Correct Things (v. 7-11)

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you, if his 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, 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!

 

4.1              Be Persistent in Prayer

Two examples are given in the Bible about being persistent. Example one is about food and friendship and example two is about seeking justice.

Food: Luke 11: 1-8

 Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' "Then the one inside answers, `Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

The Poor Widow and Justice: Luke 18: 2-5

He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town that kept coming to him with the plea, `Grant me justice against my adversary.' "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, `Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!' "

Jesus wants us to persist in our prayers. He knows how easily distracted we are and how poorly disciplined is our lives. He emphasized the need for us to persist and continue to pray.

 

4.2              What this verse is not about

Somehow this passage is often used to teach that if we persist in prayer, God will give us what we ask for. If we keep bugging God, God will give in. After all He is a loving father. We have been told to claim this promise. That if you persist in prayer, God will have to answer. He has no choice because Jesus taught ‘ask, seek, knock’. So if we do what He said, then He has no choice but to give us what we ask. After all He is God and we can believe His Words. This sounds like we are using His words against Him. Like a child, ‘But Daddy, you  promised..’.

This sounds like a blank cheque prayer. “Lord you said you will bless with material wealth those who obey. So here I am, so bless me! Here is my $10, give me back $100. Did you not say no one can out give You and You are rich. All cattle on the hills belong to You.  And you give back hundred fold. So where’s my hundred dollars?” And many people use this verse to teach Christians how to be a billionaire.

There are some Christian leaders teaching that Christians should not get sick. Christians are to be healthy because God has created them so. So if a Christian is sick, then the Christian either has an unconfessed sin or it is the deception of the devil. So we have to drive the devil away. Since it is either a deception or sin, there is no need to see doctors or take medicines. Ask, seek, knock. Persist in your prayers and have faith and the Lord will heal you. Do you still feel the pain, don’t worry but claim God’s healing. There is no such thing as the cancer inside you, only the devil deceiving you. Pray for faith and you will be healed. You are not healed because you have not asked. You are not healed because you did not persist in your prayers. You are not healed because you do not have enough  faith.

A pastor and his congregation in Cheras was very shaken and upset by a comment by a Christian leader from another church. A member of their congregation just went to the Lord after a pain bout with cancer of the pancreas. At the funeral, this Christian leader came and told them that their brother would not have died if they have prayed the ‘correct’ prayer! Can you imagine the effect this has on the grieving family? As if there is a ‘correct’ prayer or formula that we can use to get God to do what we want. A Malaysian recently wrote a Christian song, 'When I pray'. The chorus goes like this, 'When I pray, I move the Hand of God.' Wow. Such faith. Such holiness. Such insolence. Who are we to think that when we pray we can make God do what we want to do.

 

4.3              What this verse means

Sorry, no blank cheque prayers. We must understand this verse in the context of the last two verses- the impossibility of us not to be non-judgment and not self-righteous in our relationships with others and our inability to discern who are truly the spiritual ‘dogs; and ‘pigs’. Jesus always states the problem, our inability to solve it and then He gives the solution.

Luke 11: 9-13

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

The ‘ask, seek, knock’ is for the Holy Spirit and it is only for God’s children only.

The only way we can be non judgmental in our relationships and be more discerning is by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no way we can do it ourselves. But with the Holy Spirit whom God, our Father gives us, it is possible. That why Jesus taught us to ask, seek and knock. Our Lord asks us to persist in prayer until then Holy Spirit in us changes us. We always think of prayers as asking for things. We always think that prayers are to change God’s mind. The great truth is prayer changes us.

 

5.                  Be Practicing the Golden Rule (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.

‘So’ or ‘Therefore’, Jesus sums up His teaching for the last three verses. You can only have godly or ‘righteousness’ relationship with others if you have the Holy Spirit. This verse is commonly referred to as “the Golden Rule.” The golden rule has been taught in many forms by various traditions. Confucius taught that 'do not do to others what you do not wish done to you'. The famous Jewish rabbi Hillel was reputed to have said when someone challenged him to explain the Talmud while standing on one leg "What is hateful to yourself do to no other: that is the whole law, the rest is commentaries."  Of course, now we have the platinum rule: 'Do onto others before they do only to', the rule of pre-emptive strike.

The principle is that what people ordinarily want others to do for them should be what they practice toward those others. This principle summarizes the essential teachings of the Law and the Prophets. But such a principle cannot be consistently practiced by a natural person. Only a righteous person is able to practice this rule and thereby demonstrate the spiritual change that has come about in his life. What we do to others must be the same as what they do to us. Be non judgmental but be discerning. It must be equal. Always we hold back. Give so to others but keep the best for ourselves. Jesus said, no. It must be equal. What you give to others must have as much love as what you are giving yourselves. Impossible?  Impossible with man but possible with God. That’s what Jesus meant when he said ‘Love your neighbors as yourself.’ That’s the teaching of the Law and the prophets.

 

6.                  Closing Thots

Here Jesus concludes His sermon on the mount by coming full circle to the Law. It is love. To live out the Golden Rule, to be non-judgmental in our relationships with other people yet be discerning, we need to persistently pray to be filled and moved by the Holy Spirit.

 He will next go on to talk about choosing to follow and practice what He has taught in the sermon on the mound by using the illustration of two gates, two trees, two builders.

 

                                                                                                                                                Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

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