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The Silver Rule and the Golden Rule

Confucius (English: “Master Kong”) lived about 500 years before Christ. He is credited with giving us the Silver Rule: “Do not do to another what you would not wish to have done to you.” This was certainly less destructive than the Iron Rule. And due to the likeness in language to the Golden Rule the two are often mistaken for one another. So many scholars credit Confucius with the Golden Rule too. But that just serves to give credit for what is God’s over to a man; and that is all to common. However a careful reading and inspection will identify the crucial distinction between the two. The Silver Rule of Confucius requires nothing from either the hearer or learner. It is based strictly on negatives. Do nothing to others that you do not want done to you. Each of us can make a list of “what you ought not do.” And that part is good advice. But in this rule you can only hope for fulfillment in others who offer up the same – doing nothing to you. You do nothing and they respond the same. So the equation remains: nothing equals nothing. No input always renders no output. It seeks neutrality to all actions. And certainly the followers of this religion seek neutrality in both thought and application. Dare I offer to the reader that we have no control as to what others might do in response to our actions? And the same can be said when we do nothing. Yet what Jesus said was much more striking:

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV). Or as the ESV records: “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)

The Golden Rule makes the participant active – “do to them.”

“(You) do also to them.”

Treat others, directly and proportionally, exactly as you would hope to be treated. Here the onus for the outcome is on the protagonist, the practitioner. Then this becomes the greatest rule for action towards good ever conceived. It is not by accident that it comes directly from the God of heaven and earth, and the Son of God. As it is God’s Word by design it is therefore holy – set apart. To move in the direction of right we must pay attention. And no human being (including Master Kong) ever posed a fundamental for behavior like this. It is in direct opposition to that Rule of Iron and to any other contrived rule for living. And it is contrary to any rule that seeks the elevation of one person over another. Positive input equals and requires planned positive output.

It is about others and not me. It is concentrated and centered on treating others as you would like to be treated. In order to do this, you have to train yourself and concentrate on positive dispositions and attitude. It is active and requires a design to its input based on the desired output — what you do to others. And in all cases it is not easy to accomplish. But God has said the results are what matters.

The Apostle Paul wrote this in the close of his letter to the assembly in Philippi.

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

(Philippians 4:8-9)

That might be a good start. And what could be possible if we could only manage to get this squarely located in between our ears and back behind our eyebrows?

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

(Romans 8:31)