Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:30-36 ESV)
Let’s break this meaty passage down and start with a well known verse.
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
This phrase is commonly referred to as the golden Rule. It may surprise you to learn that Jesus is not the first person in history to express this sentiment. Many great philosophers and religious men of the past have said very similar things. Some would say that this universal sentiment sums up the heart of the Christian faith, but if it is commonly shared among other faith traditions how is it then a distinctly Christian doctrine? My answer would be to say that it is not at all the central doctrine of Christianity, and if some groups make it so, then they have strayed away from the simplicity of the gospel message. The good news isn’t that we should try to treat others with kindness. We are all sinners who will inevitably fail at this lofty goal. We need redemption from our lack of love toward God and men. God has provided this salvation by giving us his Son, Jesus Christ. Now that is good news!
Well, if this verse doesn’t capture the centrality of our faith then it at least should be the supreme guiding principle of our commitment to follow Christ, right? But is it true, as so many say, that this verse should be the ultimate rule of living?
It is Jesus’ way of communicating the truth of living out our horizontal relationships with our fellow man. It fulfills the 2nd of the greatest commandments – Love thy neighbor. Yet it is subordinate to the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Does it do us any good to obey the golden rule while not loving God?
No, of course not. The Golden Rule should more accurately referred to as the Silver Rule. It can only successfully be obeyed in light of first loving God for who he is and what he has done. We receive no reward for obeying it apart from a grateful love for God. In fact, it would be impossible to obey the Golden Rule apart from the love of God and for God – dwelling within us.
The scripture simply expresses a common sense sentiment: treat others like you want to be treated.
Jesus expresses loving others this way; ‘love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). Why is this such a wise command? Because Jesus knows human nature. Man loves himself above all things. He is bound and determined to fulfill all his needs and all his desires. If we were just as determined to meet the needs and desires of those around us the world would be a completely different place.
It is not so much a sin to love ourselves than it is to love ourselves to the detriment of our neighbor, which is the cause of all sorts of strife in our broken world.
Why does Jesus say it is not beneficial if we love those those who love us? Since when is loving someone not necessarily a good thing?
In the context of human culture and taking in consideration the corruption of our nature, it is apparent that our love for someone has much to do with what kind of pleasure and what sort of benefits we receive from the relationship. If it makes us feel good then we will continue fostering the relationship so we can continue receiving the benefits. If the benefits diminish then typically we will distance ourselves or terminate the relationship altogether. This is not the ‘agape’ love that God commands us to show.
Why should we love unlovable people?
Simply because they are the same as us. Man is made in the image of God and suffers the same fallen depraved nature and subsequent judgment as we do apart from divine grace. We are to be merciful because we desire mercy from God and others.
The same goes for doing good and lending to others. We expect to receive good deeds in return for services rendered and possessions returned that are borrowed. Again, society operates on the principle of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. An eye for an eye – in a positive sense. That is, do unto others as they do unto you. Side note: This is the motto of the LeVayen Satanist cult. Someone borrows your lawn mower and doesn’t return it so you may borrow his weed trimmer and hold it hostage. Or perhaps you borrow and keep another neighbor’s mower and justify it by pointing back at the other neighbor who still has your mower saying, ‘that’s just how things work.” We are instructed by our Lord not to play these kind of childish games with people.
The ultimate test of our motives in doing good comes in what we expect in return for our kind acts. Some people donate millions to a cause or organization, but in return they expect respect, adoration, and a lasting monument to their generosity, that their name may endure through the generations.
This is not godliness. We are to do in secret so that we won’t be tempted to be motivated by temporal rewards, but only compelled by the love of God that should so richly dwell within us. Do we desire reward for something in the here and now or the there and to come? The apostle Paul instructs us to not set our minds on earthly things but rather on heavenly things.
Who are the ungrateful and kind that God is kind to? All of us. V. 36 sums up why we are to do all these things to those who are enemies of God. We are to be merciful to the undeserving because God is that way to us, his covenant people.