The Meaning Of Matthew 7:12 (Do unto others as you would have done to you)

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

This verse is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule. You’ve likely heard something like this verse quoted before, “Do unto others as you would have done to you.” Even outside Christianity this phrase has become commonplace. 

Even though we know this verse, we often miss the Matthew 7:12 meaning. It’s an incredible verse that sums up the entire Bible, and it should be a marker for every Christian’s life. 

So, let’s take a closer look at this verse. But before we can look at the meaning of Matthew 7:12 we need to first look at the content in which these words were said. 

The Context Of Matthew 7:12 

In Matthew 5 – 7 we find Jesus’ most famous message, the Sermon on the Mount. Throughout this message Jesus teaches about how life and faith really work. What he says is shocking, countercultural, and different than an other religious leader in his day. In essence what Jesus does in these chapters is paint what a true disciple looks like.

In Matthew 7 he gives the instructions to not just hear the Word, but to act upon it. A major focus is on God the father, and that he wants to provide for his children. Therefore we should not only listen to what he says, but also present our requests to him for what we need.

This leads to Jesus’ famous words to “ask and it shall be given to you.” You can read more about that here: The Powerful Meaning of Matthew 7:7 (ask and it shall be given unto you)

As Jesus wraps up this section he gives what is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule. This is the intent of God for his people, to do unto others as you would have them do to you. 

Jesus is describing the path that leads to life. In the coming verses Jesus is going to talk about the narrow gate that leads to life, and the wide gate that leads to destruction. Matthew 7:12 is the verse the bridges this transition. 

Let’s look a little deeper at the Golden Rule and see what the Matthew 7:12 meaning is for us today. 

Matthew 7:12

The Matthew 7:12 Meaning 

We are going to dive into this verse and see what it means. To help you better see the meaning of Matthew 7:12 I’ve broken this verse down into three sections. 

So In Everything

“So in everything,” and other translations say, “Therefore.” Regardless of the word, the message is the same. Jesus is encompassing not just what he said in the previous verse, but the entire sermon. He’s going back to Matthew 5:12 and saying because of ALL I’ve said… 

In other words, we know that what Jesus says next is of HIGH importance. We should pay attention to the next words. 

Do Unto Others What You Would Have Them Do Unto You 

So in everything, “do unto others as you would have done to you.” 

Whether you grew up in the church or not you’ve likely heard some semblance of the Golden Rule before. It’s everywhere. And it’s easy for us to forget how revolutionary Jesus’ teaching was because it’s so ingrained in our culture today. 

Now, Jesus wasn’t the first teacher to encourage evaluating behavior in light of how you wanted to be treated. However, Greek and Jewish teachers would offer this in form of a negative statement. They would imply that one should not do anything that you would not want done to you. In essence this meant that one ought to do no harm or evil. 

But Jesus’ phrasing is different, and it takes this teaching a step further. The Golden Rule doesn’t just require us to not harm others, but to actively do good for others. 

Mark Moore in The Chronological Life Of Christ offers some great insight into this difference: “The negative of this rule, sometimes called the Silver Rule, is frequently found in religious literature. Even Confucius supposedly said, ‘Do not to others what you would not wish done to yourself.’ Tobit 4:15 says, ‘Do not do to anyone what you yourself would hate.’ And when the great Jewish rabbi, Hillel, was asked by a would-be proselyte to expound the whole law while he stood on one leg, he replied, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else. This is the whole law; all the rest is only commentary.’ The difference between these negative rules and Jesus’ positive one is immediately apparent. We can do nothing and still completely satisfy the demands of the Silver Rule. But the Golden Rule demands my constant and utmost action. Such is the difference between the extraneous rules of religion which men keep to the letter while weaseling their way out of love, and Jesus’ clarion call to righteousness whose simplicity exposes our hypocrisy and yet stimulates our best efforts to emulate him.”

The Golden Rule calls us to continual action; we must continually be doing what is good for others. God calls his people to treat others as they want to be treated. This is what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves, to treat them as we want to be treated. While this is easy to understand, it takes a lifetime to fully put into practice. 

For This Sums Up The Law And The Prophets

This is an incredible statement. The Golden Rule not only sums up Jesus’ sermon, but the entire Old Testament. 

Later in Matthew Jesus talks about the Greatest Commandment in the same way; we are to love God and love one another. And Jesus says, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:38-40) 

The greatest commandment and the Golden Rule go hand in hand. What is clear throughout the Bible is that God wants us to love one another.

Many people have complicated and made the Bible unclear. But Jesus offers remarkable clarity. If you are a Christian your two biggest priorities are to love God and love those around you as you love yourself. Everything else in the Bible is simply commentary on those rules. 

How The Golden Rule Applies To Your Life

So, how does the meaning of Matthew 7:12 apply to our lives today? 

Followers of Jesus should strive to love and serve those around them. This requires us to think about ourselves less. Don’t misread that, I’m not saying we should think less of ourselves, but rather to think about ourselves less. 

Rather than just looking out for ourselves, we should look out for others. And this is exactly what Jesus did for us right? He did for us what we were incapable of doing for ourselves. Not because we deserved it, but because he loves us. Jesus is the ultimate example of what it means to live out the Golden Rule. 

It’s important to note we do this NOT to earn salvation. Rather we should strive to live this out in response to salvation. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we should strive to do unto others as you would have done to you. 

The entire Bible is summed up in this one rule. Love the people around you. So, go do that. Live out the Matthew 7:12 meaning, and see what God can do in your life. 

Jeffery Curtis Poor
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