Matthew 7: The Golden Rule
We are still listening to the Lord's words on the mountain by the Sea of Galilee, where He spoke the Blessings and told the disciples and the multitude how Christian people ought to live. If someone does wrong ought we to get angry and blame him and treat him unkindly? We cannot judge calmly and truly when we are angry, and the anger may be much worse than the fault that we see in someone else. If we are angry when we try to correct a fault in our brother, it is like trying to take a mote, a little speck, out of his eye when there is a beam, or a log, in our own eye. We must overcome our own wrong feeling and judge kindly before we can help each other to do better. (Read verses 1-5.)
"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is the Golden Rule. The Lord says that it is the law and the prophets; it sums up all the Commandments and the teachings of the whole Bible. It means that we must think of other people and not merely of ourselves in everything that we say and do. We must think what other people want, and what we should want if we were in their place. That seems easy. It stops our doing wrong and unkind things, and it often shows us that we ought to do things that we do not like to do. But it is not hard, for the Lord will help us if we really want Him to. We know how kind our fathers and mothers are in giving us food and clothes and other good things. The Lord is still more kind in helping us to keep the Golden Rule. The strength that He will give is compared to bread and fish, the same food with which he fed the multitude to represent the strength of heart and mind which He was giving them in His teaching. (Read verses 7-12.)
How could a man be outside like a sheep and inside like a wolf? Sheep's clothing is the kind, gentle, loving words and ways that are the true expression of an innocent, loving spirit. But if the spirit within these gentle ways is cruel and selfish, it is a wolf hidden in the sheep's clothing. Really the inner spirit of kindness or unkindness goes into every word and action, as the life of a tree goes into all its fruits. The fruit shows whether a tree is good or bad, and the things that a man does show whether he is good or bad, if we can look deeply and see the spirit that is in them. The Lord sees the spirit in everything we say and do. (Read verses 15-20.) If we say that we love the Lord and talk about being good, but do not do good things, can the Lord take us into heaven? Or even if we do such things as the Lord's disciples do, but do them for show and without the good spirit in them, can the Lord take us into heaven? We have no acquaintance with what is really heavenly. We could not feel at home, nor even breathe the air, where everything is full of the heavenly spirit. (Read verses 21-23.)
Through all the Sermon on the Mount the Lord was teaching the rules of Christian life. But there were two ways in which people might take these rules. They might let them lie in their minds as something to think about;
they would then be like loose sand with no strength in them. Or they might obey the rules; then they would find the strength and protection of the Lord in them, which no trial or temptation could shake. If we obey it, the law, which the Lord gave in the mountain, is like a rock on which we build our houses; and they will stand strong and safe through life in this world, and forever in heaven. (Read verses 24-29.)
1. In what book of the Bible shall I find the Sermon on the Mount? In what chapters?
2. Where did the Lord speak it? Who heard it?
3. How does the Sermon begin? How does it close?
4. What is the right way and the wrong way to help a brother to correct a fault?
5. What is the Golden Rule? Can we keep it?
6. What does the Lord wish us to do with the rules that He has given us in His teaching on the mountain?
The mote in a brother's eye means some little fault. But more exactly, what is the spiritual eye? Then the mote in the eye is some fault of understanding, and this is far less serious than an evil purpose, which is meant by the beam. (A. 9051; E. 746)
Giving holy things to the dogs and casting pearls before swine may mean giving precious heavenly things to people who will not treat them reverently. But it means still more using holy truth to excuse and serve evil feelings and actions in ourselves. The pearl which is formed to protect the oyster from some irritating thing, represents in the best sense the knowledge of the Lord's saving power which protects us from all harm. This is the pearl that makes the gate of the Holy City. But suppose we say, "The Lord has saved us, we can be as evil and self-indulgent as we please!" Then we are casting the pearl before swine. The pearl is spoiled by being given a false meaning, and our heavenly life is hurt too. (E. 1044)
Asking, seeking, knocking. The words describe three kinds of effort to find the good things of heaven. What faculty is used in seeking? In knocking? We ask when we desire goodness from the Lord; we seek when we wish to be taught by Him; we knock when we ask with our hands by doing what is right and desire to enter into interior life.
The way of good life is called a strait or narrow gate, because it is naturally hard for us; and the way of bad life is called broad, because it is naturally easy. The "many" and the "few," as we have learned, do not refer so much to number; but "many" means the outward things of religion and proper life, which may have nothing of the spirit of heaven in them, and "few" means the true heavenly spirit. (Revelations 17:14; R. 744.)
What are the thorns and thistles in our minds? Remember the parable of the sower. The useful leaves of good plants represent thoughts that are busy preparing for good deeds. What kind of thoughts are meant by the sharp points that prick and scratch? What are the grapes and figs, which are never found on these selfish plants? Good, kind uses; the grapes, uses that are more spiritual and intelligent, for this is the meaning of grapes and wine; the figs, uses of a more external sort, natural kindness and benevolence. (E. 403; A. 5117)
What is meant by the floods that beat upon the house? And what by the winds? Remember the winds and waves that the Lord rebuked on the Sea of Galilee. The dangerous waves and floods are false thoughts that crowd in upon the mind in a time of temptation, and the winds are the unseen influences of hell that come with them. Notice that they beat upon the strong house as well as on the weak one, but it is able to resist them. (E. 644)
As one having authority. The Lord did not repeat traditions as the scribes did. He spoke from His own life, to tell the disciples, and to tell us, of the ways of life that He knew from experience are the only good and happy ways.