Read Matthew 7
The Golden Rule, as it has been eloquently coined, is one of the most quoted Biblical references. In my experience, I usually hear it quoted to children who are struggling with social issues reminding them that people are more likely to treat us well when we treat them well. It seems, especially for Biblical teaching, to be strangely self-serving.
How could Biblical teaching like this be self-centered? Wouldn’t that be the complete opposite of the overall message we hear in the Bible? Well… as a matter of fact, Yes! In fact, the so-called “Golden Rule” is not a teaching of manipulation so others will treat you well. It is, actually, an outgrowth of a much deeper and long-standing teaching, the “second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Indeed, all of the teachings in today’s reading are like this, reminders of the appropriate orientation that we are to have as the people of God. This orientation is not toward ourselves, us trying to make ourselves look better (judging others), us seeing things in the world to elevate ourselves (seek first the Kingdom of God), or us doing things to others to rise above them (the golden rule). The orientation that Christ is teaching is one of love; loving God and loving each other.
All of Jesus’ teachings here are accented by the notion that a “tree is known for its fruit.” Jesus seems to be addressing here a culture that is holding up the notion of following the rules, people that go to church when they are supposed to, do their devotions every day, and pray before their meals. Yet the warning goes out: “not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom…” Jesus continues to say here, “I don’t want your actions, I want your heart.”