Matthew7v12: THE GOLDEN RULE

Introduction. Read Matthew7v12.

So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

(1) A unique statement by Jesus.

William Barclay writes in his commentary on Matthew: This is probably the most universally famous thing that Jesus ever said ...... there is no real parallel to this saying. .... It is a new teaching, and a new view of life and of life's obligations.

There are many negative forms of this statement. For example, Confucius taught: What you don't want done to yourself, do not do to others. This is a lot easier to implement than the positive: 'Do to others what you would have them do to you.'

I hate being defrauded and I certainly wouldn't defraud a tradesman who did work for me. I would pay my bill promptly. It is not difficult.

I would have hated my parents splitting up when I was a boy. I would never drive a wedge between a man and his wife. Neither is this difficult for me.

I despise disloyalty and would not be unfaithful to my fellow church members. Neither is this hard for me. So, on the whole I do not find it difficult to refrain from behaving to others in ways I dislike people behaving toward me. It is much, much harder to apply the Golden Rule in its positive form.

(2) General comments about the Golden Rule.

(a) It is lucid. We can all understand the Golden Rule. It is not like some Old Testament laws. I had an email recently from a Nigerian lady who wanted to know if it is bad to cut your hair in the 'road cut states' style. This style involves cutting hair from the side of the head - something prohibited in Lev19v27. There are several obscure laws of this nature!

(b) It is practical. The Golden Rule has to do with conduct. It provides a practical guide to human behaviour. It is a rule that can be applied at any time, in any situation, in any company before acting in any way. All we have to do is ask ourselves: Is this how I would like to be treated?

(c) It is possible. Jesus is just asking us to behave in a way we thoroughly approve of. If we approve of a person dealing with us in a certain fashion - surely we should be able to act in this way ourselves.

(d) It is of universal application. We are not urged to operate the Golden Rule for the benefit of a select few: our family members, friends or fellow Christians. No, the injunction of Jesus applies to everyone with whom we come into contact.

(e) We fail to keep it. The Golden Rule is clear, reasonable and worthy and yet we fail to apply it consistently. Society would be transformed for the better if only we all obeyed Jesus and did as we would be done by.

(3) Boaz abided by the Golden Rule in his conduct toward Ruth.

Boaz showed how the Golden Rule could be consistently applied in his behaviour towards Ruth. This is beautifully described in Ruth2.

(a) Boaz took an interest in Ruth. He asked the foreman of the harvesters, "Whose young woman is that?" 2v5. Boaz didn't ignore Ruth.

We surely appreciate it when people take an interest in us. Sometimes you will hear someone say, "I never know what to say to him." The real problem such people have is that they don't know what questions to ask. The best way to draw folk out is to ask questions and listen to their answers. My brother Philip is extremely good at doing this and soon gets a person talking about themselves.

Sadly I live in a part of Bury St Edmunds where no one is much interested in me. I might have a couple of conversations a year with Sam Smith and that is about it. This is a dire situation and I am as much to blame for it as my neighbours. It never used to be like this 40 years ago when I moved with my parents to my present address.

(b) Boaz welcomed Ruth. The farmer said to Ruth, My daughter, listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here."

What a warm welcome! Ruth wasn't a lovely, Jewish virgin but a poor Moabite widow. Boaz, perhaps mindful of God's concern for the widow and refugee, shows concern for the young gleaner.

We all respond favourably to a warm welcome. It is nice to visit a church on holiday and to be made a fuss of. The people of my own small church in Brockley, Suffolk, go out of their way to make visitors very welcome.

Many years ago when I attended University College London I discovered that a man called Paul Ballard led a youth work for Baptist students in London based on Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church. When I was about fifteen years old I had met Paul at Pioneeer Camp where he was one of the workers. This was at a time when we both attended what were then called Strict and Particular Baptist churches. I formed a close relationship with Paul at camp. He was a very attractive personality. So I decided to attend the society for Baptist Students in London. Paul Ballard recognised me at once! That is to his credit!! He then said, "What are you doing here - this is no place for the likes of you." And he wasn't joking! I wasn't welcome - Bloomsbury Baptist Church was not the place for a young Strict and Particular Baptist. It was a hotbed of liberalism. Needless to say Paul's words were a great disappointment. I could hardly believe my ears.

(c) Boaz included Ruth. He said to her: "My daughter, listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls." 2v8.

We all prefer to be included rather than excluded. I had no trouble about being included in the sports teams I played for. I was never omitted from the Brockley Cricket First Team for 40 years and could have played veteran's hockey until I dropped!

But I know what it is to be excluded - excluded from preaching at churches I served well for years - excluded from friendship groups - excluded from the birthday celebrations of elderly members of my church who should have known better.

Jesus was inclusive. On one occasion John told Jesus that he had stopped a man from driving out demons in the Master's name. Jesus was not impressed by John's behaviour. He said: "Do not stop him ....... for whoever is not against us is for us." Mk9v38to41.

It is a pity more churches don't heed Jesus' teaching! The Grace Baptist Association that my church belongs to includes some who are not prepared to have fellowship with non-Calvinists. Roman Catholics don't allow laymen to preach to the faithful notwithstanding the Holy Spirit's decision to bestow on some lay persons the gift of prophecy.

(d) Boaz protected Ruth. He said: "Watch the field where the men are harvesting and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you." 2v9.

In 2002 I visited Japan with my friend Tommy Bamber. During our visit we stopped with Japanese families that Tom had met on a previous trip to Japan. They looked after us. We were safe with them.

It is sound policy for children in school to have a mentor - a member of staff who looks after them. It is reassuring to have at our place of work colleagues that we can rely on for support. Churches need pastors - men and women who care for the flock.

(e) Boaz was very thoughtful. He said to Ruth: "And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled."

Gleaning in early summer was hot work. Ruth would soon get thirsty as she gleaned among the sheaves. So it was good to know that a refreshing drink was readily available.

During my time as a sports organiser for the children of Pioneer Camp I spent many hours refereeing games in the heat of the day. I was always glad when my friend, Freda the camp cook, brought me out a cup of tea - a thoughtful gesture that meant a lot.

Sometimes a worker in God's harvest field is in need of refreshment. If we live by the Golden Rule we will anticipate their need.

(f) Boaz was appreciative. He both admired and acknowledged Ruth's loyalty to Naomi her mother-in-law. He said: "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband - how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before." 2v11.

It can do a person a power of good when they receive appreciation for something they have done or achieved. It seems to me that some folk are very reluctant to give praise. I have told my circle of Christian friends about this website - but the majority have not contacted me to express any appreciation whatsoever. It is very discouraging!

During my time as a teacher it always lifted my spirits when colleagues or pupils thanked me for an assembly such as: The Pink Blancmange.

(g) Boaz blessed Ruth. He said: "May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." It is wonderful to be the recipient of a blessing like that. There is something prophetic about a blessing. Simeon blessed the parents of Jesus and told them: "This child is destined to cause the rising and falling of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed." Lk2v34and35.

Blessings were much sought after especially in the early history of Israel. Jacob infamously deceived his father, Isaac, to receive the firstborn's blessing which was Esau's by right.

A blessing is an expression of utmost goodwill and, as such, Boaz's blessing must have been a great comfort to Ruth.

It is good when a young Christian embarks on a spiritual venture with the blessing of his or her church. Paul and Barnabas were able to set forth on their missionary journey to the Gentiles with the blessing of the entire church at Antioch.

(h) Boaz was hospitable. At meal time Boaz said to Ruth: "Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar." 2v12. When Ruth sat down with the harvesters Boaz offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

Ruth didn't turn up in the harvest field with a rucksack full of goodies. Not like my former pupils who set forth on Geography trips with food sufficient to feed the five thousand. It seems likely that Ruth had nothing to eat at midday. She and Naomi probably had just the one meal in the evening. They had very little to live on!

If we live by the Golden Rule we shall share our good things with those who lack them. What can we do or give in order to make life better for someone?

(i) Boaz ensured Ruth's success. He ordered his men: "Even if she gathers among the sheaves, dont embarrass her. Rather pull out some stalks for her to pick up and don't rebuke her." 2v13. Boaz allowed Ruth the satisfaction of honest labour but ensured it was well rewarded. He was a peacemaker in Jesus' sense of the word. See Blessed are the Peacemakers.

I watched young Jack bowl in the nets. I could see how his action could be improved. So I told him, "Jack, rock back in your delivery stride before releasing the ball." Much to my surprise he did as I suggested and as a consequence bowled with more success.

When I visited Japan with my friend Tom I made a poor fist of using chopsticks. Eventually a delightful Japanese lady asked, "Is that the English way of holding chopsticks?" "No," I replied, "It's my way!" "I will show you the Japanese way," she said. The charming lady arranged the chopsticks in my hand the Japanese way and I never looked back.

These are just small ways of applying the Golden Rule and helping others to succeed.

(j) Sustained provision. Boaz maintained his commitment to Ruth throughout the barley and wheat harvests. If she averaged an ephah of grain a day Ruth collected enough to see her and Naomi through until the beginning of the next harvest. An ephah is the equivalent of 3/5ths of a bushel or 5 gallons or 40 pints.

Some people make a commitment to help, make a big show of helping - but cannot keep it up. If we offer to help an old lady with their shopping we need to do it regularly, at the same time, every week.

(4) Conclusion.

Boaz made a very good job of behaving towards Ruth as he would others behaved toward him. He showed that it is possible to live by the Golden Rule. But I think he was helped substantially by the fact that he admired Ruth for her loyalty to Naomi and her confidence in God. Not only this, but I have little doubt that Ruth was very attractive. She was still young and certainly alluring enough to invite the attentions of the male harvesters. As far as Boaz was concerned it may have been love at first sight!

Where we fall down is living by the Golden Rule in our dealings with people we neither admire nor like. We lack motivation when it comes to helping folk who do not deserve our help. As for our enemies! Well they are our enemies, right - and that's how we are going to treat them.

However, Jesus teaches: But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them with without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Lk6v27to36. See also: exposition on Luke6v27to36.

This is where we fall down and where God excels. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rm5v8.