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Matthew 7:12-23

The Golden Rule is part of the fundamental choice Jesus is calling us to make.

Tom Faletti

June 7, 2024

Matthew 7:12 The Golden Rule


What word or phrase comes to mind as you consider this passage?

In my Bible Study group, here are some of the ideas that were considered: empathy, consideration, reciprocal treatment, kindness, walking in the other’s shoes.


How does this go beyond the “eye for an eye thinking” of earlier civilizations?


Almost all religions and ethical systems have some form of the Golden Rule, but most are expressed in the negative: Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.  No one before Jesus expressed this idea in the affirmative, requiring that we “do.”  How does Jesus’s way of saying it push us further?

There are a variety of possible answers to this question.  One think worth noting is that the negative formulation only requires you to hold back and not do something bad.  Jesus’s rule requires us to affirmatively take action to be helpful in ways that we would want others to be helpful to us.


To live the Golden Rule seriously, we have to take the time regularly to think about what we might wish others were doing – and then do that thing.  Is that an easy or difficult challenge for you?  Explain.


How would the Christian witness to the world be different if we truly lived the affirmative version of the Golden Rule that Jesus taught?



Matthew 7:13-23 The fundamental choice


Verses 13-14: The wide way and the narrow way.


In the poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost wrote:


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

(Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken,” 1915, Poetry Foundation,


Jesus is similarly proposing a fundamental breakpoint where a choice must be made.


Where does the narrow gate lead (verse 14)?


What do you think he means by “life”?


How have you experienced this “life” that is found on the narrow way?


What choices did you have to make to set you on the path with the narrow gate?


On the narrow way (verse 14), why do you think Jesus says the road is “hard” (NRSV) or “constricted” (NABRE)?  How is the narrow way hard?


Where does the road with the wide gate lead (verse 13)?


What do you think he means by destruction”?


Are there times when you have experienced the effects of spending time on the easy road with the wide gate?  Explain.


If you have spent time on the wide way, what choices did you have to make to get of that road and move to the narrow way?


How would you characterize the difference between how a person lives their life on the narrow way versus the wide way?  Are there differences in outlook, focus, character traits that are exhibited, priorities, etc.?



Verses 15-20: False prophets


Prophets are people who speak the word of the Lord to the people.  While we think of prophecy mostly in terms of predictions about the future, most prophetic activity in the Old Testament and probably in the early church involved the delivering of commands from God about how the people should live, often in response to what was going on at the time.


We know from other passages in the Bible that itinerant prophets would come through town and expect to be fed them and supported while they were there.  The question was, were they moochers, or evilly inspired, or from God?


According to Jesus, how can you judge whether some is a good prophet (verses 16 and 17)?


What does good fruit look like?  What fruits would you look for in trying to judge whether someone is of God?

Among many criteria, we might look for: How are they living their lives?  Do their lives exhibit righteousness and repentance, or are they caught up in sinful behaviors?  Do their lives conform to the Golden Rule that Jesus has just laid down a few verses earlier?  How well do they manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)?  Do they live lives of discipline or excess?  Do they care for the poor or focus on the wealthy?  How do they handle adversity?  Do their teachings promote unity or sow division?  Do their teachings cohere with what God has already revealed or promote new, hidden knowledge known only to them?


Why does Jesus say in verse 19 that bad trees are cut down and thrown into the fire?


Who are the “prophets” of our time whom we need to judge by their fruits?


Are there “prophets” you are tempted to listen to?  How can you make sure you are judging them wisely and not being drawn in by clever words and enticing ideas?



Verses 21-23: Saying “Lord, Lord” doesn’t mean you’re in the kingdom of heaven


Jesus says that saying, “Lord, Lord,” is not enough.  What needs to be done to enter the kingdom of heaven?

Only those who do the will of the Father enter the kingdom of heaven.


In this context, what do you think Jesus means by “doing the will of the Father”?  What must we do?


What deeds are not sufficient evidence that someone will be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven (verse 22)?


Why are those powerful signs of God’s presence not sufficient?


What do you think those people should have been doing instead?


Note: Jesus will spell some of this out more explicitly later in Matthew’s Gospel, including where he says that the ultimate test will be how we treated the least of us who were in need around us (Matthew 25:31-46).


It is popular to say that we need to “walk the walk and not just talk the talk.”  How does that idea reflect what Jesus is saying?  What is the “walk” that is needed, that goes beyond the “talk”?


Notice that the people Jesus is describing here weren’t just “talking.”  They were doing impressive, attention-grabbing things.  They may have even been doing good things.  But Jesus said that is not enough.  What are they missing?


What does this passage say to you about your own life?  What do you need to be doing, in order to be what you are called to be?



Take a step back and consider this:


It is interesting that the Golden Rule sits between a set of passages that, on one side, tell us to stop judging others and to pray continually to God with confidence that our Father in heaven will give us what we need, and, on the other side, tell us that we need to make a fundamental choice to take the hard way that bears good fruit and look good.


Perhaps the linkage is that the Golden Rule, if lived fully by a committed Christian, will lead us to the right dispositions:

  • If we treat others the way we want them to treat us, we will cut others as much slack as we hope they will cut us and that God will cut us.

  • If we treat others the way we want them to treat us, we will trust God for our needs and not look for ways to squeeze every last dollar out of the people around us.

  • If we treat others the way we want them to treat us, we will live lives that the people around us will recognize as bearing good fruit.

  • If we treat others the way we want them to treat us, the Lord will not say, “‘I never knew you.  Depart from me, you evildoers” (Matt. 7:23, NABRE).


If we take the Golden Rule in its full, affirmative form – do what you want others to do – how might it change not only our actions, but our entire way of thinking?


Pick an area of your life where you are dealing with other people and the situation is currently bothering you or not going as you would like.  How can you apply the Golden Rule creatively, in its affirmative direction to do what you wish others would do for you?  How can you do something differently in that situation, in the spirit of the Golden Rule?



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Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

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