Summary: Jesus wants us to take the initiative to do something good for another person.

August 19, 2001

If You Only Knew the Father – Part 5


Last year, a movie was released called “Pay It Forward.” How many of you have seen it?

A couple of months ago, I finally took Greg Boldt’s advice and rented it. An evening well spent.

In the movie, a boy, played by Haley Joel Osment has a social studies assignment to find a way to change the world. His idea - Do something good for someone that they can’t do for themselves, then that person pays it forward.

As at catches on we see people engaging in acts of kindness to others only to say, “Don’t pay me back – I’m looking for nothing in return – pay it forward. Find three other people and do something for them.”

Essentially, the heart of “Pay It Forward” is the Golden Rule. It’s something Jesus thought of 2000 years ago, and if taken seriously, it can still change the world today. Jesus doesn’t suggest we limit our actions to just to three people – but to adopt it as a way of treating everyone we meet.


So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

That statement of Jesus is commonly called the Golden Rule, and the Big Idea for us capture in it is this:

Big Idea: I will take the initiative to do something good for another person.

TRANSITION: If this is to happen, we’re going to have to embrace the Golden Rule in three ways. #1, we have to…


…Do to others what you would have them do to you…

In many other religions the rule is stated negatively.

Most notably is a story of an event that took place in 20 B.C. That is, around 50 years prior to Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount. The tale was told of a Gentile (a non-Jewish person) who approached Rabbi Hillel and his rival teacher of wisdom. The Gentile promised each that he would convert to Judaism if one of them could teach him the entire Law while standing on one foot.

So Rabbi Hillel said this: “Do not do to your fellow what you hate to have done to you. This is the whole law; the rest is explanation.” (A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener, p. 249)

That incident would have been legendary by the time of Jesus, like I said, just 50 years later. Every Jew would have heard about that and probably even repeated it a few times.

So Jesus takes a very familiar statement and turns it around – so that it is no longer stated negatively, but positively.

I was trying to think of something said in our culture 50 years ago that has become legendary. And I thought of what John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address of 1961.

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

What if someone today said, “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what your country can do for you.” Big difference. And you would easily see the impact of what the person is saying because of the familiarity of the statement he is changing.

Think of what Jesus is saying to his crowd on the mountain. There is a big difference between do not do to others what you don’t want done to you and do to others what you would have them do to you. And his hearers could not have possibly missed it.

If you don’t see the difference yet, let me give you an example…

Let’s say someone has been in a coma their entire life. Born comatose and lived their whole life in that condition. (I don’t know if that’s possible, but for the moment let’s pretend it is). At that person’s funeral we could say, “What a great man. He never stole, he never lied, he never lusted, he never once lashed out in anger.” All of that would be very true.

Another person might say, “Sure, but on the other hand, he never gave sacrificially, never once complimented anyone, never offered a shoulder to cry on and never ever said thank you.” All of that would be true as well.

A person in a coma has a pretty good excuse for inactivity. We have excuse. “Do not do to others what you don’t want done,” can be observed by anyone – no initiative is needed whatsoever.

That kind of rule can be obeyed by simply sitting still and vegging out – and by the way, this kind of rule lacks the fortitude to change the world.

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Dr. Marc Axelrod

commented on Jun 26, 2007

Great sermon! I love the way you apply it, the application activity is a terrific idea!

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