The Golden Rule: Hillel verses Jesus

Jesus was not the first Rabbi to mention the Golden Rule, but His take on it was far better, if you look closely. Both Hillel and Jesus found the basis for the Golden Rule in the book of Leviticus (19:18), yet each came from a different perspective.

Hillel was asked by a Gentile to summarize the whole law “while standing on one foot.” Hillel answered, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Law; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”  (Shab. 31a) Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

On the surface they seem identical except for one is said in the negative and the other in the positive, but that is where all the difference makes the most difference. Hillel speaks in the negative and thus if followed could lead one to do very little loving. Jesus, on the other hand pushes us to love first. Jesus motivates us to pre-emptive strikes of loving-kindness. “Don’t do!” says Hillel, and so many do not go out of their way, but Jesus Christ exclaims, “Do!”

This Golden Rule is often called the law of reciprocity… but not from our Lord. It is not returning good or evil, its freely giving and hoping to receive good and not evil in return. Do not think of love and kindness as pay back, but as right living.

As children we were always told, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This then lead to “children should be seen and not heard.” But the Bible says, speak, and speak love. The Bible says, “out of the mouths of babes…” Let us urge one another on in loving-kindness and spread love, joy, and peace. Live the golden rule – love first before you only love after being loved, only encourage after being encouraged, only care after being cared for. Follow Jesus and live the positive – go and do unto others as you would want.

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