“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
~ Winston Churchhill
The Golden Rule
Most people know the golden rule. It’s not just a Christian statement anymore but has expanded to injecting liberal tolerance while dejecting Jesus’ intent and heart of this message, which happens to be centered smack in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:12). It simply states: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Although this statement is known as the golden rule, it originated from an Old Testament law found in Leviticus 19:18 and was later paraphrased by a Rabbi named Hillel who is quoted in the Talmud. He stated it this way: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, and whatever you would not want to happen to you, do not do to another.” (Lev. 10:18 & Didache 1:5). Jesus took the Law a step further to challenge us to go deeper with God than the Law could take us; that is, we are not only to not do wrong, but we are actually to do good.
Going back to our text in Matthew 7, Jesus explains that the Father in Heaven is good and gives good gifts to those that ask, therefore why would we not be willing to give good gifts, regardless of whether others are asking or not. In John 12, we learn from the Lord that the idea of gaining life is to give it away, not keep it. I suggest to you that this is the crux of the gospel lived out in mankind. Erto, Churchill’s quote at the beginning of this writing.
The Church’s Dilemma to Golden Rule:
The church today is faced with many challenges, especially on teaching the populous how to do the golden rule. Leaders are conflicted with what directions to lead their congregations in these days of uncertainty and the congregations are looking for truthful navigation to help them get through questionable waters of life. And again, there is Jesus who wants us to be salt and light, acting as a beacon for those weary travelers who are tired of wandering in the dark.
Since the digital age has capitalized on technology, more and more Christians, and others alike, are dismayed we now have a society, as well as a church, that has lost focused on what living out the golden rule looks like. It is a cultural trend for sure. More and more former church attendees are self-directing their spiritual intake through podcast, live stream services, or downloadable messages. It is simply the google effect, they’re searching to find something to make them feel good, or better. Whether it is truthful, biblical, or sound, or not. The problem with this often is the omission of conviction and correction, as the message of the Bible is diluted.
In a recent study by the Pew Research Center, findings after post-pandemic attendance for religious service attendances for once or twice a month were only 33%. Out of those attendees, the evangelical Christian segment revealed that only 58% attended once a week and 30% attended a few times a year. A larger percentage of Mormons and Jehovah Witness attend more regularly; 77% and 85% respectfully. The problem, I would suggest, isn’t about attendance, although that is important. It is more about a theological shift in our culture. Frankly put, Church attendance isn’t that important anymore and I would bet the message the Church has to share isn’t either. Church growth guru, Carey Nieuwhof, would suggest that the leaders focus on getting church attendees to serve others more.
Leaders are to Live the Golden Rule
Smart leaders should begin to encourage those attending to be engaged and serving, not just in church, but in their communities. More so, in areas that they would not normally be involved in, like domestic and global missions. And it must begin with the person in the pulpit. If we want to see the world change, we have to be willing to do to others what we would do for ourselves.
For a pastor maybe it’s a call to just check in with churchgoers and ask how things are going and if there was a need to explain the message more, or a need for prayer. Possibly invite others to join you serving at your local rescue mission or be willing to lead a short-term service team to minister to marginalized families. One of our main goals each week at Heart for Lebanon is to check in with our investors to just thank them and or pray for them. In the field, our staff conducts daily tent visits to check in on the refugee families we serve. Practical application is the key.
~ Inspired by Matthew 7:12