Take the Golden Rule:
Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. (Matt. 7:2)Right? Not exactly. It’s missing the first word: “So” (Greek: οὖν).
More fully, Jesus said:
So [or therefore], whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. (Matt. 7:12)This little word signals that you can’t understand this verse without understanding what precedes it. Jesus made arguments, not bumper stickers.
The word “so” shows that obeying this command depends on understanding the previous verse — verse 11 –
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!Here Jesus promises that whenever we ask, our Father in heaven will always do good for us (especially the greatest good of giving us more of Himself).
We first must understand that God will always do good for us (v.11) — so therefore we can devote ourselves to doing good for others (v.12).
How to obey the Golden Rule
Jesus does not want us to obey the Golden Rule by gritting our teeth and ignoring our own needs so we can care for the needs of others.
He wants us to obey by first trusting all our needs to our Father in earnest prayer — resting in the fact that He is rejoicing to do us good with all His heart and soul.
Then — trusting that God is passionately pursuing us with good — we can devote ourselves to doing good for others.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I have known the Golden Rule for decades but failed to see the connection with the previous verse. At his new blog, Steve Fuller explains why the first word is actually the most important word in the Golden Rule if you want to apply it with gospel freedom.
I encourage you to read the whole thing. You’ll know what the “therefore” is there for!