The Golden Rule Ė The Same In All Religions?
By Reese Currie, Compass Distributors
I was recently in Manchester International Airport in England, when I came across an inter-faith prayer room. The symbols of various religions were on the sign, and just inside the door, there was a poster with the words, "The Golden Rule" in the center, typed inside a yellow orb meant to look like the sun. Then, on each sunbeam, there was a religion and its version of the Golden Rule.
Unfortunately, I didnít have the time to jot down the various versions of the Golden Rule (I had to catch a plane!) but I was able to locate these later on-line.
The implication here is that religions are not unique, nor does one religion have any value over and above any other religion. Since all religions are basically the same, then, oneís faith is merely a matter of personal choice, and at the bottom of them all there is most likely a common and unknowable God. This is hardly a new theme for the ecumenists, but is it really true? I believe a frank examination of the version of the Golden Rule for every faith reveals that Christianity remains on a far higher plain than any other religion. Letís examine each version of the Golden Rule, starting with Christianityís version, so I can highlight the differences.
A Note On "Golden Rules" In General
Before we begin, I should note a significant difference in the understanding of "keeping the Golden Rule" in different religions. True Christianity differs from all other religions in that it is not a "works-salvation" system. In a works-salvation system, the works that individuals perform give them merit with their gods, or whatever "system" is in place that rewards their good deeds.
True Christianity holds that there is no reward at all for a person who does not have faith in Jesus Christ, because to enter heaven, one must be perfect in Godís sight. When one repents and turns to God, and receives faith in Jesus Christ, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them, and they are seen as being perfectly righteous in Godís sight. Further, this faith in Jesus Christ produces the ability to do the Christian "Golden Rule." It is not something that people do in their own strength.
I want to emphasize the fact that, in the non-Christian religions the "golden rule" is something that people "do" in their own strength, and since people are imperfect, no one can "do" the "golden rule" perfectly. To the Christian mind, people who think they will receive a reward for trying to keep the Golden Rule imperfectly are deceiving themselves, because without the imputed perfection of Christ, they continue to "fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23b).
In Christianity, the Golden Rule is expressed by Jesus in these words: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12).
It is important to note the difference between what Jesus said, and what most Christians today practice as "the Golden Rule." Jesusí rule is not "donít do things to others that you would not want done to you." Jesusí rule is a positive rule, even a pro-active rule: If you would like something done for you, you should be doing it for others; and this is true in "all things" or in "everything."
A few Bible versions omit the words "all things" from Matthew 7:12. Low quality paraphrases like The Message, the New Living Translation, the Contemporary English Version omit it, but even some more formal and accurate translations like the New King James Version, the older 1977 version of the New American Standard Bible, and the English Standard Version omit it. There is no scholarly reason for the omission, since the text is present in all families of the original manuscripts. No, this error is made solely for readability reasons, and is a totally unauthorized distortion of the words of Jesus. There are no exceptions to the rule as Jesus originally stated it. In everything, we are to be proactively doing for others the positive things we would want others to do for us.
Some corrupt forms of Christianity promote "works-salvation" systems, which is basically the notion that salvation can be attained by keeping the Golden Rule through our own efforts. This is simply not true. Salvation comes only by faith, which is conferred on us by Godís grace in response to our repentance toward Him. The evidence of that faith is found in our God-given ability to keep the Golden Rule, and act as God originally intended us to act. This thought is expressed in Ephesians 2:8-10, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
In Judaism, we find the Golden Rule expressed in these words: "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary" (Talmud, Shabbat 31a).
Compared to the Christian version of the Golden Rule, this version is deficient in at least two ways. First, it is not telling us to do good to others; it is telling us not to do bad to others. This excuses us from the requirement to proactively do good. Second, unlike Jesusí statement, it devalues the inspiration of the Jewish scriptures. Jesus does not devalue any of the Word of God as being merely commentary.
Brahmanism is a form of Hinduism, so perhaps this version of the Golden Rule applies to all forms of Hinduism, or perhaps not. The version of the Golden Rule in Brahmanism is, "This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you" (Mahabharata 5:5157).
This version of the Golden Rule is not actually telling us to do good to others, but only not to do bad to others.
In Buddhism, the Golden Rule is expressed this way: "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful" (Udana-Varga 5:18). Again, this version of the Golden Rule is not telling us to do good to others, but only not to hurt others.
The Golden Rule is Islam is expressed as, "No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself" (Sunnah).
This version of the Golden Rule is closer to that found in Christianity, but it is still deficient by comparison.
First, it doesnít actually prevent doing bad to another, because it lacks that important qualifier in Christianity, "in all things."
Second, it doesnít require doing anything at all for others; it is only to "desire" that things work out nicely for others. Desiring good for others is easy, but taking action in doing good for others is hard.
Third, it is a judgmental statement. Jesus doesnít say that people arenít believers if they fail to practice the Golden Rule. A failure to practice the Golden Rule indicates a weakness and a failure to live up to oneís faith, but it doesnít mean the person is not a believer. If a professing Christian becomes aware of these transgressions and does not repent, however, it is a strong sign that the person is not really a believer. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:16, shortly after stating the Golden Rule, "Ye shall know them by their fruits."
Fourth and finally, the phrase "brother" could be interpreted to apply only to people of the same faith, that is, fellow Muslims. Jesus places no such limitations on His statement; it applies to other people of any faith.
The Golden Rule in Confucianism is expressed as, "Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you" (Analects 15:23).
Like the Golden Rule in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism, this rule does not encourage doing good for others, just not doing bad to them.
The Golden Rule in Taoism is expressed as, "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss" (T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien).
Like Islam, this version does not require doing good to others, although it does encourage not doing bad to others. It is a completely passive rule that speaks more to not being jealous or overly competitive than how you should actually treat your neighbor.
In Zoroastrianism, the Golden Rule is expressed as, "That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself" (Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5).
Like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Confucianism, Zoroastrianism does not encourage doing good for others, it only encourages not doing bad to others.
The Baha'i version of the golden rule is, "Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself."
Like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism and Zoroastrianism, this does not encourage doing good for others, only not doing bad to others.
I obtained this Baha'i version of the golden rule from a poster I found on bahaiforums.com. We had neglected to mention the Baha'i version of it until a reader wrote in requesting that we add the Baha'i golden rule to this list.
However, the reader had quoted a different text, "Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship ... So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth."
The reader's quote is better, but still is more passive and doesn't have the proactive nature of actually doing for others the things you would want them to do for you.
The difference between these various versions of the Golden Rule can be summed up very simply: the non-Christian versions of the rule are merely human, but the version of the Golden Rule given by Jesus Christ is divine, and therefore perfect. It is an inescapable fact that Godís religion is Christianity, and that is why I make this religion my choice.
The Golden Rule Ė The Same in all Religions? Copyright © 2004 by Compass Distributors