“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.Matthew 7:12
This most famous teaching of Yeshua sums up the compassion that God expects us to exhibit to others. He even goes so far as to say this maxim actually encompasses the entire Law and the Prophets, essentially all of the revealed religion that God has provided to his people.
I have heard many different views on this teaching, everything from this doesn’t really work, to saying this isn’t original to Yeshua (and it isn’t). But I have found to understand it best as Yeshua intended it is to keep it within its immediate context, whether here in Matthew or in its parallel placement in Luke.
Here in Matthew, the immediate context is the following:
Matthew 7:7-12 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
This then gives the meaning that if someone asks of you, to provide them what they are asking for. For if you desire others to provide for you when you ask, you should likewise do the same for them, just as God does for you.
In Luke, the passage has a slightly different emphasis.
Luke 6:27-36 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 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.
In this passage, Yeshua is emphasizing how this idea of doing compassionately unto others extends even (or especially) to those whom are adversarial to us, those whom we are very likely to not do good things to. However, in the same intent as the Matthew context, if we are asked even by our enemies for something, we should be willing to give freely to them, as we would also hope to be done to us by them.
According to Yeshua, this is what the whole Bible is about. We should be merciful and compassionate to all others in all ways that we would like to see mercy and compassion exhibited toward us. Then we are just like God would have us be; then we reflect his image in this world. Compassionate giving and generous behavior toward all others truly is the core of the Bible.
So why then are we not doing it?
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at email@example.com.