Golden Rule Ethics


Course Description

E37. Golden Rule Ethics,  3 CEUs

Description: Give what you want to get. That is a very simple summary of the Golden Rule (GR). The GR tries to connect you with the other person that you are dealing with in a very mutual way. If you give trouble, you get trouble. If you give kindness, kindness comes back to you. In this way, you control your environment. You can do something about your circumstances. You are not at the mercy of others. If you do them good, they will do good to you. Or at least that is how we start.

Objectives: After completing the course, participants will: 1. understand the meaning of the Golden Rule, 2. be able to report how it is applied, and 3. list ways how it fits into the study of ethics.

Course Exam

The Golden Rule1. Understand the Golden Rule

1.1 What is the Golden Rule?

“What is the Golden Rule?” From “Got Questions?”

Question: “What is the Golden Rule?”

Answer: The “Golden Rule” is the name given to a principle Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount. The actual words “Golden Rule” are not found in Scripture, just as the words “Sermon on the Mount” are also not found. These titles were later added by Bible translation teams in order to make Bible study a little easier. The phrase “Golden Rule” began to be ascribed to this Jesus’ teaching during the 16th–17th centuries.

What we call the Golden Rule refers to Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus knew the human heart and its selfishness. In fact, in the preceding verse, He describes human beings as innately “evil” (verse 11). Jesus’ Golden Rule gives us a standard by which naturally selfish people can gauge their actions: actively treat others the way they themselves like to be treated.

The English Standard Version translates the Golden Rule like this: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus brilliantly condenses the entire Old Testament into this single principle, taken from Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” Again, we see the implication that people are naturally lovers of self, and the command uses that human flaw as a place to start in how to treat others.

People universally demand respect, love, and appreciation, whether they deserve it or not. Jesus understood this desire and used it to promote godly behavior. Do you want to be shown respect? Then respect others. Do you crave a kind word? Then speak words of kindness to others. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The Golden Rule is also part of the second greatest commandment, preceded only by the command to love God Himself (Matthew 22:37–39).

What is interesting to note about the Golden Rule is that no other religious or philosophical system has its equal. Jesus’ Golden Rule is not the “ethic of reciprocity” so commonly espoused by non-Christian moralists. Frequently, liberal critics and secular humanists attempt to explain away the uniqueness of the Golden Rule, saying it is a common ethic shared by all religions. This is not the case. Jesus’ command has a subtle, but very important, difference. A quick survey of the sayings of Eastern religions will make this plain:

• Confucianism: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you” (Analects 15:23)
• Hindusim: “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you” (Mahabharata 5:1517)
• Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” (Udanavarga 5:18)

These sayings are similar to the Golden Rule but are stated negatively and rely on passivity. Jesus’ Golden Rule is a positive command to show love proactively. The Eastern religions say, “Refrain from doing”; Jesus says, “Do!” The Eastern religions say it is enough to hold your negative behavior in check; Jesus says to look for ways to act positively. Because of the “inverted” nature of the non-Christian sayings, they have been described as the “silver rule.”

Some have accused Jesus of “borrowing” the idea of the Golden Rule from the Eastern religions. However, the texts for Confucianism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, cited above, were all written between 500 and 400 BC, at the earliest. Jesus takes the Golden Rule from Leviticus, written about 1450 BC. So, Jesus’ source for the Golden Rule predates the “silver rule” by about 1,000 years. Who “borrowed” from whom?

The command to love is what separates the Christian ethic from every other religion’s ethic. In fact, the Bible’s championing of love includes the radical command to love even one’s enemies (Matthew 5:43–44; cf. Exodus 23:4–5). This is unheard of in other religions.

Obeying the Christian imperative to love others is a mark of a true Christian (John 13:35). In fact, Christians cannot claim to love God if they don’t actively love other people as well. “If someone says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). The Golden Rule encapsulates this idea and is unique to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.

1.2 What Does The Golden Rule Mean?

Read the following article by Paul Dallgas-Frey about the meaning of the Golden Rule (Source)

The Golden Rule

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”


But what does that mean exactly?

One day a large crowd…

…was following Jesus.

So he climbed to the top of a hill so every one could see him. He sat down on a rock, and all the people sat down on the grass around him. And then Jesus began to tell them all about God (after all, who would know better than God’s own son!).

What he said was something like this…

“If you were a mom or a dad, and one of your children asked you for something for breakfast, would you give them a snake? Or a bowl full of spiders? No! You know better than that! And you know hardly anything about being a parent.

“Just think then. Your Father in heaven knows everything about being a good parent. When you ask him for something, will He give you something bad? Would He give you a bowl of spiders? No way! He will give you only what is good.

“Don’t you see? You already know what is good and what is bad. So always do for other people what you would like them to do for you. You know that that is good. Be good to others, just like you want them to be good to you. That is what all the laws in all the world are really all about.”

Another time…

… Jesus was teaching his disciples and he said to them, “Now I am going to tell you something that is hard to do.

“Love your enemies.

“Even if they hate you, and do mean things to you, love them back. If someone pulls your hair, don’t pull theirs back. Do something nice for them instead. If someone takes something of yours, don’t get all mad and try to grab it back. Instead, let them have it, and be happy for them, just like you would be happy if they let you have something of theirs.

“That’s hard! But believe me, if everyone did this, it would change the world!

“Do for others just what you want them to do for you. If you really do that, you may just find that your enemy will become your friend.”

1.4 Additional Reading

  • Research into the Golden Rule
    • “The Golden Rule” from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
    • The term “Golden Rule” is not found in Scripture, but is the popular way of referring to the words of Jesus

2. How the Golden Rule is Applied


2.1 Golden Rule State

May 13, 2003
For more information, contact Kevin Tyne at 602-542-4919.

Secretary of State Jan Brewer Announces New Program
Arizonans can nominate those who Live by the Golden Rule for Recognition

PHOENIX – At a signing ceremony declaring Arizona a “Golden Rule State,” Secretary of State Jan Brewer today announced a new program to recognize Arizonan citizens “who live by the Golden Rule.” The signing ceremony was conducted to present copies of Senate Concurrent Resolution 1006, “a concurrent resolution encouraging the citizens of Arizona to live the Golden Rule” to members of the legislature and media. As part of the ceremony Secretary Brewer handed out Golden Rule marbles to remind those to live the rule.

As a new “Golden Rule” state, Secretary Brewer established the Golden Rule program to recognize those who treat others the way they would like to be treated and who make a difference in Arizona.

“I am pleased to present this great new program that celebrates people who truly make a difference in our lives,” stated Secretary Brewer. “I think Arizonans should take time out to recognize those who demonstrate and exemplify ‘living the golden rule’. People need to be acknowledged for their good deeds and acts of kindness.”

Secretary Brewer explained the process which is very easy to nominate someone as a Golden Rule Citizen. Those interested simply need to log on to the Secretary of State Web page at, click on the “Golden Rule” link, and fill out a nomination form. For those without Internet access, Arizonans are encouraged to use computers available at either the Secretary of State’s Office in Phoenix, 1700 W. Washington, the Tucson Satellite Office at400 W. Congress, 2nd Floor, Room 252, or visit their local library.

“Living the ‘Golden Rule’ really is contagious,” said Secretary Brewer. “The positive affect from just one person living the rule often influences many others to do the same.”


E37.2 Golden Rule City

What Is a Golden Rule City?

In 2003, the State of Arizona declared itself to be a “Golden Rule State”. On November 18, 2008, the Flagstaff City Council followed the State’s lead by unanimously passing Resolution No. 2008-68 designating the City of Flagstaff as a “Golden Rule City”. The Flagstaff community cherishes the diversity that has made Flagstaff into the multifaceted northern Arizona gem that it has become. Cultures, faiths, and languages are the basis of a thriving, synergistic population. In such a community, prejudice, hate, bigotry, and intolerance have no place.The ultimate goal of a Golden Rule City is that its citizens treat each other the way they would like to be treated; helping those in need, embracing diversity, and transcending differences. Resolution No. 2008-68

Golden Rule Resolution - Smaller

2.3 The Golden Rule in the Bible

Summation of the Golden Rule

  • Matthew 7:12 – So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (NIV)

Applications of the Golden Rule from the Bible

Adapted from

  • Luke 6:31 – And just as you want people to be doing to you, be doing to them likewise. (DLNT)
  • Galatians 5:14 – For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (ESV)
  • James 2:8 – If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (NASB)
  • Mark 12:31 – The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these. (GW)
  • 1 Peter 3:9 – Do not pay others back evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead, keep blessing them, because you were called to inherit a blessing. (ISV)
  • Matthew 7:1-5 – Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (NRSV)

3. Golden Rule Ethics

3.1 Golden Rule Reasoning

University of Virginia School of Law

Golden Rule Reasoning, Moral Judgement and Law
Neil Duxbury

This article examines ‘Golden Rule reasoning’ – reasoning according to the principle that we should treat others as we would have them treat us – as a basis for moral action and as a criterion for assessing the moral quality and implications of laws. After distinguishing the Golden Rule from other ideas and principles with which it is sometimes associated, I embark upon a defence of the Golden Rule as a principle of fairness. The main approach to defending this principle has been to detach Golden Rule-based behaviour from the desires of agents and recipients. The purpose of adopting this approach is to avoid reducing the Golden Rule to the proposition that we are entitled to impose on others preferences that we would happily have imposed on us. I examine various attempts to show that the Golden Rule requires that agents do not simply project their values and desires onto others and I argue that the most successful of these is R. M. Hare’s explanation of Golden Rule reasoning in universal prescriptivist terms. Although the universal prescriptivist explanation is open to various criticisms – as becomes obvious when it is applied to particular moral problems such euthanasia and abortion – it nevertheless provides a strong philosophical basis for claiming not only that Golden Rule reasoning need not be connected to particular tastes and preferences but also that, as a matter of moral principle, we should never tolerate double standards where cases are relevantly similar. While I accept and try demonstrate the merits of interpreting the Golden Rule in universal prescriptivist terms, however, I conclude that a more robust interpretation of the Rule is one which is advanced by some natural law philosophers and which has it that doing to others as one would have done to oneself is necessarily a case of doing good towards others. The article ends with some reflections on the implications this version of Golden Rule reasoning for legal policy-making, and in particular for the abortion debate.


3.2 Ethics and the Golden Rule

From the book description:

It is commonly accepted that the golden rule―most often formulated as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”―is a unifying element between many diverse religious traditions, both Eastern and Western. Its influence also extends beyond such traditions, since many non-religious individuals hold up the golden rule as central to their lives.

Yet, while it is extraordinarily important and widespread, the golden rule is often dismissed by scholars as a vague proverb that quickly leads to absurdities when one attempts to formulate it in clear terms. In this book, Harry J. Gensler defends the golden rule and addresses all of the major philosophic objections, pointing out several common misunderstanding and misapplications. Gensler first discusses golden-rule reasoning and how to avoid the main pitfalls. He then relates the golden rule to world religions and history, and to areas like moral education, egoism, evolution, society, racism, business, and medicine. The book ends with a discussion of theoretical issues (like whether all morality reduces to the golden rule, which the author argues against).

The first couple chapters are available as a preview on on Amazon’s Website. This book is recommended if you wish to study this topic in further depth.

3.3. What is Ethics in Research & Why is it Important?

From What is Ethics in Research & Why is it Important?

“When most people think of ethics (or morals), they think of rules for distinguishing between right and wrong, such as the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”), a code of professional conduct like the Hippocratic Oath (“First of all, do no harm”), a religious creed like the Ten Commandments (“Thou Shalt not kill…”), or a wise aphorisms like the sayings of Confucius. This is the most common way of defining “ethics”: norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior…”

Read the rest of this article on the following site:


TEST  in E37 in GOLDEN RULE ETHICS for 3 CE hours course accredited by the California Board of Registered Nursing, PCE 16144:  Click here to take the 10-item test online and make payment, and to print your certificate.


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