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Is the Golden Rule biblical?

The Golden Rule is often stated as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This well-known ethical principle essentially means that you should treat other people the way you would want to be treated. But where does the Golden Rule come from? Is it actually found in the Bible?

What is the Golden Rule?

The Golden Rule is a moral principle that involves treating others the way you would want to be treated if you were in their place. It discourages actions that harm or negatively impact others, and encourages actions that care for and serve others.

The Golden Rule can be summarized as:

  • Treat others the way you want to be treated
  • Do not treat others in ways you would not want to be treated

This principle emphasizes mutual love, concern, and respect between people. It provides a basic standard for ethical treatment that values the dignity and well-being of all people.

Where did the Golden Rule originate?

The concept behind the Golden Rule is ancient, appearing in writings and teachings throughout history and across different cultures and religions. Forms of the principle can be found in:

  • Ancient Egyptian writings
  • Classical Greek philosophies
  • Roman philosophies
  • Chinese philosophies such as Confucianism
  • Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain scriptures

Here are some examples of the Golden Rule expressed in key writings and by leaders prior to the Bible:

  • “Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do.” – Ancient Egyptian text (c. 2040–1650 BC)
  • “Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.” – Thales (c. 624–546 BC), Greek philosopher
  • “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” – Confucius (551–479 BC), Chinese philosopher
  • “This is the sum of all true righteousness: deal with others as thou wouldst thyself be dealt by. Do nothing to thy neighbor which thou wouldst not have him do to thee after.” – Mahabharata (c. 400 BC), Hindu text

So the ethical principle of the Golden Rule has very deep roots across cultures and faith traditions. It did not originate from just one source.

Is the Golden Rule found in the Bible?

Yes, the Golden Rule is present in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. It is not stated just once, but expressed multiple times by different Bible authors.

Here are some of the main biblical passages that communicate the Golden Rule principle:

Old Testament

  • “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” – Leviticus 19:18
  • “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” – Hillel the Elder (c. 60 BC – 10 AD), Babylonian Talmud

New Testament

  • “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
  • “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” – Luke 6:31
  • “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8

Jesus Christ summarized the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 as the summation of God’s law and the message of the biblical prophets. The apostles also reinforced it in their writings as central to living out the Christian faith.

Examples of the Golden Rule in the Bible

To understand how the Golden Rule principle appears in the Bible, here are some examples from key passages:

Leviticus 19:18 – Love your neighbor as yourself

  • Context: Part of God’s instructions to the Israelites about how to live holy lives and treat others justly
  • Quote: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
  • Application: The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” calls for treating others the same way you would want to be treated – with love and consideration.

Matthew 7:12 – Do to others what you would have them do to you

  • Context: Jesus teaching his followers about genuine righteousness and loving others.
  • Quote: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
  • Application: Christ himself gave this concise version of the Golden Rule to summarize the heart of God’s law – treat others the way you want to be treated.

Luke 10:25-37 – The Good Samaritan

  • Context: Jesus tells a parable to illustrate what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Story: A robbed and beaten man is ignored by religious leaders but helped by a Samaritan, who was supposed to be hated by Jews.
  • Application: Your “neighbor” includes anyone in need, even those considered enemies or outcasts. Treat all people the way you would want to be treated if you were robbed and dying on the road.

How is the Golden Rule carried out in the Bible?

The Golden Rule is not just stated but demonstrated throughout the Bible as people treat others with love and compassion:

  • Ruth – Ruth remains and cares for her widowed mother-in-law Naomi instead of abandoning her after their husbands die. She treats Naomi the way she would want to be treated if she was widowed. (Ruth 1)
  • Job – After losing everything, Job prays diligently for his critical friends instead of lashing out at them in anger. He treats them the way he would want to be treated in hardship. (Job 42:7-10)
  • Good Samaritan – In Jesus’ parable, a Samaritan rescues an injured man on the road, showing mercy and generosity. He treats the man the way he would want to be treated if he was mugged and left for dead. (Luke 10:25-37)
  • Roman soldier – A centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant without needing to be visited, showing care and humility. He treats his servant the way he would want to be treated if ill. (Matthew 8:5-13)

The Bible displays the Golden Rule as lived out through sacrificial love, mercy, forgiveness, generosity, and compassion for those in need.

What does the Bible say about why we should follow the Golden Rule?

The Bible gives at least 4 key reasons why followers of God should live by the Golden Rule:

  1. It sums up God’s law – The Golden Rule encapsulates the heart and sum of God’s commands, as Jesus said in Matthew 7:12. If you follow the Golden Rule, you will be obeying God’s law.
  2. It shows love to others – Choosing to treat others well demonstrates love, as Paul writes in Romans 13:8-10. Love fulfills the law.
  3. It sows goodness – How you treat others will directly impact how you are treated in return, according to the “sowing and reaping” principle (Galatians 6:7-10). Treating others well results in goodness.
  4. It reflects God’s character – Mimicking God’s generous compassion should guide how you treat fellow humans who are made in God’s image (Ephesians 5:1-2). You become more Christ-like.

In short, the Golden Rule aligns human behavior with God’s character and desires. Following it leads to blessing, justice, and community.

What are some examples of following the Golden Rule in everyday life?

Here are some practical examples of living out the Golden Rule in daily life and decisions:

Scenario Golden Rule Application
A cashier is rude and short with you at the store. Stay polite and kind, treating them the way you would want to be treated if you were having a bad day.
You see someone being bullied at school. Stand up for them and tell the bully to stop, treating them the way you would want to be treated if being harassed.
A friend shares private information with you. Keep their confidence, treating them the way you would want your private matters respected.
Your neighbor’s car is blocking your driveway. Politely ask them to move it, treating them the way you would want to be asked respectfully.
A family member makes an insensitive comment about your struggles. Gently tell them that it hurt you, treating them the way you would want your feelings valued.

Applying the Golden Rule to daily choices and interactions leads to honorable, thoughtful behavior towards others.

What are some ways Christians fail to follow the Golden Rule?

Despite Christ’s clear teaching on the Golden Rule, Christians often fail to live it out. Here are some key areas where Christians can neglect or contradict this biblical principle:

  • Hypocrisy – Condemning sins in others that you excuse in yourself, rather than showing patience and grace.
  • Judgment – Harshly criticizing those who sin differently than you, rather than showing understanding.
  • Bigotry – Mistreating people based on race, gender, background, or sexual orientation, rather than honoring all as God’s image-bearers.
  • Selfishness – Ignoring needs you could meet and hurts you could heal, rather than generously serving others.
  • Greed – Valuing money and possessions over human worth and welfare, rather than loving people over things.
  • Pride – Acting superior to “sinners” and outcasts, rather than showing humility and compassion to the needy.

Christians fail to follow the Golden Rule whenever they treat others in ways they would not want to be treated themselves. But Jesus still calls his followers to obey this core biblical principle.


The Golden Rule is a central, ancient biblical principle that encourages moral treatment of all people. It instructs followers of Christ to put themselves in others’ shoes and treat everyone compassionately. This rule sums up God’s law, shows Christ-like love, promotes justice, and builds community when put into action.

Christ taught the Golden Rule as the heart of righteous living. Though Christians have often failed to follow it, Jesus still commands his church to live by this rule that calls us to love others as we love ourselves.