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What Does "Do Unto Others" (The Golden Rule) Mean in the Bible?

  • Jennifer Heeren
  • 2019 30 May
  • COMMENTS
What Does "Do Unto Others" (The Golden Rule) Mean in the Bible?

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a biblical concept spoken by Jesus in Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12; it is commonly referred to as the "Golden Rule."  

"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).

"Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31).

John similarly records, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible comments on Luke 6:31

"Many think that the Golden Rule is merely reciprocal, as if we act based on how we want to be treated. But other parts of this section downplay this focus on reciprocity, and, in fact, reverse it (vv. 27-30, 32-35). At the end of the section, Jesus gives a different basis for our actions: we should imitate God the Father (v. 36)." 

Our response to God's grace should be to extend it to others; we love because he first loved us, therefore, let us love others as we are loved. This is the simple, yet difficult to live out command. Let's take a deeper look at how we can live this out each day.

"Do Unto Others", The Great Commandment, The Golden Rule...What it All Really Means

In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.No other commandment is greater than these.” Without doing the first part, you really don’t have the ability to even try the second part. When you strive to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you gain the help of the Holy Spirit which helps you to love other people.

Some people may say that it’s in our nature to do good to others. After all, there has been a “random act of kindness” movement for a long time. But, in general, most people only help other people when:

1. It’s their friend or family.
2. It’s convenient for them.
3. They’re in a good mood, or
4. They expect something in return.

But the Bible doesn’t say do random acts of kindness when you’re feeling good. It says to love others at all times. It even says love your enemies as well as those that persecute you. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you any different from anyone else. Everybody does that (Matthew 5:47). Loving everyone at all times is a much tougher task to accomplish. It’s imperative to allow the Holy Spirit to help you.

It comes down to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would like them to do to you (Luke 6:31). In other words, treat all like you want to be treated, and more than that treat all as God has treated you. If you want to be treated nicely, treat someone else nicely; treat someone else nicely because of the grace you have been given. So that regardless of how you feel in any given situation, you can offer grace like the grace God extends to you daily. You’re probably thinking that sometimes you are nice—very nice—and in return you get contempt from some people. Unfortunately, this can and will happen. People don’t always treat you they way they want to be treated or the way you want to be treated. But that doesn’t mean that you can stop doing the right thing. Don’t let someone pull you into their web of uncaring harshness. Two wrongs never make a right, and vengeance does not belong to us. 

Shed Your Own Hurt in Order to "Do Unto Others"

Everyone is hurt or has been hurt in some way in this world; nobody has the perfect life. The hurts of life can harden me and make me bitter, therefore, causing me to only look out for myself. Selfishness will never enable me to grow and move forward. It is easy for hurt people to continue the cycle of hurting other people whether they realize it or not. People stuck in a mindset of hurt tend to wrap a cocoon of protection around themselves so tightly that all they see is themselves. But if everyone hurts in some way, how do we stop this cycle of hurting others?

Hurts don't have to harden me; I can become better because of them. It's OK to let myself feel the hurt deeply, but instead of toughening up, I can allow God to give me a new perspective. A perspective of empathy because I understand what a particular pain feels like. There is always someone else who is going through what I’ve already gone through. This is a big way I can "do unto others" — to help them get through the pains of life, but I must shed my hardened shell first. Sharing with others about my own pain begins the process. Vulnerability or risking hurt myself is being real with them, and hopefully, they will see that I am genuinely there for them.

Shed Your Self-Centeredness

When I am always thinking about myself and what I need to do, I often don’t notice what others around me are really going through. Life can get busy, but I need to force myself to look around. There are usually more opportunities to help others if I’d only take the time to really see them and their needs. Everyone is worried about their own duties, goals, and dreams but Scripture says to not be concerned for my own good but for the good of others (1 Corinthians 10:24).

Working hard to accomplish a goal can be a good, even godly, thing. But the best goals incorporate helping others into them. A person can study hard in medical school in order to create a lifestyle they want, or they can study hard in order to cure their patients’ ailments. Adding in the motivation of helping others makes any goal much better.

There are two big temptations when I compare myself to another person. One is to think I am better than them. The other is to think I am not-as-good as them. Neither is helpful; fight the comparison trap. When I compare, I see the other person through my filter; therefore, I’m looking at them but thinking of me. Comparison wants me to keep my eyes on me. Only compare your self of today with the self of your yesterday. Am I acting better today than I did yesterday? Not perfect but better. If the answer is yes, praise God; if the answer is no, seek guidance from the Holy Spirit. Seek guidance from the Lord every day because we can't be better on our own.

Shedding thoughts of yourself as much as possible, and reflecting on who God is, will keep you on the track of helping others.

Remember Christ and Your New Life in Him

I was once dead in my own sin and disobedience. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. I had nothing to offer Christ, but he reached out to me. He died for me. Now, I have a brand new life in him. Because of grace, I have a new chance to do better each and every day and the assurance that he will never leave me nor forsake me. He died for you too.

  • Have you found encouragement from belonging to Christ?
  • Have you felt any comfort from his love?
  • Have you been blessed by fellowship with his Spirit?

Then respond by loving other people with the love that you receive daily. Work hard to live in harmony with everyone you come in contact with (Philippians 2:1-2).

Live to Help Others

Jesus made it simple by saying “love others,” and when we truly love others we will be doing many, many good deeds. The New Testament has many commands about doing unto others, which shows us the importance God places on loving others as we have been loved. We are able to love at all only because he first loved us. 

Live at peace and in harmony with others; be patient with them because people learn at different rates, and people change at different times. Bear with them as they learn one step at a time. God didn’t give up on you so don’t give up on them. Be devoted to other people, love them deeply, care for them, and spend time with them. Listen to them, give accommodation and honor where it is warranted, be concerned for others equally, and don’t favor the rich over the poor or vice versa.

Don’t judge others harshly; even if their actions are wrong, look with compassion at their whys for doing it. Accept them as a person made in God's image even in their wrongdoing. They may or may not be convicted and see the error of their own ways when you listen to them, but when someone feels continually condemned they won't be able to see the hope that is in grace. Even worse, than judging others to their face, is complaining and slandering them behind their back. Nothing good ever comes out of slander and gossip, even when you’re just venting your frustration.

Teach others, share with them, encourage and spur them on, and build them up. If you’re musical, sing to them. If you’re artistic, make them something beautiful to remind them that God's goodness reigns in a fallen world. When you make others feel better, you can’t help but feel better yourself. That’s how God designed us: to love, to care, to build up, to share, to be gracious and grateful.

Sometimes all that it takes to encourage someone is to greet them where they are and be fully present with them. This hardened and fallen world often leaves off courtesies; so, even a smile and a simple hello can go far in helping people not feel alone. Serve others, offer hospitality, and figure out what they need in life and fill that need in some way. May your acts of love, point them to Christ's ultimate love for them. Do they need a babysitter? Do they need a hot meal? Do they need cash to get them through the month? You don’t have to do everything, just step in and do something in order to lift some of their burden. When people have a need that you can’t fulfill, pray for them and encourage them. You may not know the answer to their problem, but God does.

Forgive Others, Even When They Don’t Ask for Forgiveness

Let go of all your grievances and let God sort them out. Your own trek forward will be hindered or even stopped if you don’t. Tell them the truth. If you see something they may need to change about their life, tell them honestly but kindly. Admonish others from time to time; words of warning are easier to hear from a friend. Little lies won’t save them from hearing bad things from others. Lies only serve to save yourself from feeling uncomfortable.

Confess your own sins to others. Give testimony about how you used to be but by God’s grace you aren’t anymore. Admit sins, admit weaknesses, admit fears, and do this in front of other people. Never have a holier-than-thou attitude. We all have sin and fall short of what we really want to be like, and we all need grace that comes from faith in Christ alone. Use your God-given gifts and talents to serve others. Share what you’re good at with others; don’t keep it to yourself. Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from showing grace to others.

Remember Christ Again and Again and Again

Finally, submit to one another out of your reverence for Christ. After all, he didn’t think of himself. He took a humble position of coming to earth as a human being to make a way for us to get to heaven and to show us the way to live. He even died on the cross to seal the deal, once and for all. Jesus’ way is to think of others more often than ourselves, and he set the example for us. What you do for others, you do for him. You begin by loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. That leads you to love others as much as you can, and those acts of loving others are also acts of loving him. It’s a beautiful circle of love and the way that we were all meant to live.

Related: What Does "Love the Lord with All Your Heart" Mean in the Bible?


Jennifer Heeren loves to write and wants to live in such a way that people are encouraged by her writing and her attitude. She loves to write devotional articles and stories that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk. Her debut novel is available on Amazon. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at her website and/or on Facebook.

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