Peninsula Community Church
August 14, 2011
Sermon on the Mount – Do Unto Others
Matthew 7:12-14 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
To fully understand the intent of this passage we must understand that the “Golden Rule” is a continuation of the previous verses. Because when we are a member of the Kingdom of God we give good gifts to those around us. Just as God does not play tricks on us we should not do that to others but rather we should treat others as we would want to be treated.
This one passage, though it is small, contains more guidance on living life and getting along with others than the sum total of every book ever written. Living by this rule moulds the finest Christian character, one that is well pleasing to God and man. It is for that reason that this command has been called the “Mount Everest of Ethics.”
Because of the connection between the previous verses and the text before us now, we understand that we can and must live graciously with others not according to how they deal with us but according to how God deals with us. Every failure to live by this rule is the result of distrust of God’s gracious provisions. This is worship to God.
Someone has said that it is utterly vain to speak like angels when on our knees before God, if we act like devils in our transactions with men. I have seen this in the way that:
- Husbands treat their wives.
- Parents treat their children and the example that is set in the home.
- Employers treat their employees and vice versa. On Long Island there was a successful Christian business man who was very wealthy. We knew of several people that worked for him and each one told of stories of how he would abuse and misuse them. He would fail to keep his promises and would attempt to cause people within the organization to fight against one another. He would take the credit that deservingly should have gone to others. He would go into fits of rage at his employees when they made mistakes or failed to complete a project on time. And yet, he was a key leader in a local church.
This is a difficult proposition for us today because we are living in a self-centered society that is focused on what “I can get no matter who is hurt along the way.” Because of our self-centeredness we have been conditioned to, as one person has said, do unto others first and then run. In a self-centered society, the tendency is to think of one’s self and what one wants rather than what may benefit the other person.
How many are most resolute in standing up for their own rights, yet have no regard for the rights of others; who are very strict in demanding prompt payment from their debtors, yet are exceedingly slack in meeting the dues of their creditors; who hotly resent being slandered, yet care nothing of other men’s names; who are very hurt when friends fail to sympathize with them in their trouble, vet are callously indifferent to the sorrows of their neighbors. It is vain to parade our orthodoxy in doctrine and prate about the communion we enjoy with Christ, while we pay little or no attention to this important precept. God will not accept our worship if our conduct unto our fellows contradicts our Christian profession.
The ones who complain the most, the ones who gripe the most, who groan the most, that irritate the most, are the ones who do not know how to behave toward others the most. Sadly to say, I think that the philosophy of the world has infiltrated into the church. Their philosophy today is ‘dog eat dog’, do it to others before they do it to you. It is ‘give as good as you get’, but the Lord’s teaching is that you should behave toward others as you would like them to behave toward you. The way people behave towards you is not a gauge as to how you should treat them – if they’re nasty to you, well then they deserve to have a nasty comment made toward them. Whatever they do to you is a measurement of how you should do it to them – the Lord says that is not the measurement of how you should behave, but rather you should treat them as you think they should have treated you.
It is interesting to note, as well, that this passage is often misapplied when we want others to treat us “fairly” or we have been wronged. When someone treats us poorly we are quick to respond “you know the scripture says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you” but we fail to apply this passage to our actions with others. When we are wronged we suddenly expect to be treated fairly but we ourselves do not do this with others.
But, as always, Jesus commands a different attitude. To be a kingdom citizen we are to do to others what we want done to us. This means that quite often we must respond to others with an opposite spirit. If someone is being rude, you become gracious. If they are loud, you become soft. Remember a soft answer turns away wrath.
- We listen to others – One the societal problems today is that we have forgotten how to listen to one another. We are too busy rushing about our duties and responsibilities to really hear what others are saying. By listening to others we will begin to hear the heart of the other person. Tommy Nelson challenges us to listen with our face so that whole being is involved in the process.
- We must empathize with others. It is an amazing attitude changer to begin to empathize with others. When we stop to look at where another person is coming from, what they have experienced and what they may be going through our attitude toward that person is changed. To accomplish this we must put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.
- We must be other’s focused and not selfish. To accomplish this we must be others focused when dealing with another’s needs. It is like getting a birthday present from someone who gives you what they want you to have versus what you want or need.
- People want to be understood. While a pastor on Long Island there was this one pastor that seemed to rub everyone the wrong way. He would often say things that would irritate the other pastors and leaders. He would often tell pastors what they ought to be doing when he himself was not doing what he demanded (in so many words) other pastors to do. People were criticizing him and I got caught up in that criticism until I got to know him. As I got to know him I began to understand where he was coming from and began to understand that it was not his heart to create division. God actually used our relationship to soften his presentation and to show him the error of his ways but this would not have happened had I not spent time with him and began to understand that it was not his heart to wound or hurt others.
- We forgive others whether they deserve or not because it is what we would want for our lives. How quick we are to seek to be forgiven but are slow to forgive others the pain we have caused. We attempt to justice our actions instead of working through them.
Other passages to consider:
- Jesus in this passage reminds us that by fulfilling this command that we are fulfilling what had been established in the law and in what the prophets had proclaimed. Matthew 22:37-40 – And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord (Agape love that can only come from a life given fully to God) your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” It is in fulfilling the commandment before us today that we can truly have a love for our neighbor. Look at the good Samaritan story.
- Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing from rivalry (faction or contention) or conceit (self-conceit or emptiness), but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Humility is what should guide our hearts to fulfill this command.
- Romans 13:10 – Love (Agape love) does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. The basis and motivation of fulfilling this command.
- 1 Corinthians 10:24 – Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. This is Paul’s version of “Do unto Others as you would have them do unto you.”
Finally, Jesus says that there will few who walk in this obedience and in the understanding of living a kingdom life. But it is many that will chose to live in a selfishly and self-centered lifestyle but this will not be a fulfilling life and it will lead to emotional destruction and turmoil.