Are we truly OBEYING God’s GREATEST COMMANDMENTS? Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?" Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-31)
The Torah or, the Old Testament Law given by Jehovah to the people of Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai contains 613 individual commands; however, the importance of each of these individual commands had not yet been discerned by the Jewish religious intellectuals even during the time of Jesus Christ. In those days, the scribes were the professional interpreters of the Old Testament Law. So, it is not surprising that one unnamed scribe, who was impressed by the profound wisdom of the Rabbi (Teacher), asked Jesus to reveal the most important of all the commandments in the Torah. This was one life’s most basic question, as this scribe was really asking for a concise statement of the main aim of the existence of humans on this earth!
Jesus answered this question by appealing to two summary commands that balance one’s responsibility to God and neighbor. Jesus stated that the internal condition of the heart is more important than external obedience to temple rituals. Jesus began by quoting from the opening words of the Shema, a Jewish statement of faith and a call to worship: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). This one God should have the supreme place in our life, and no other love should be allowed to rival our love for God. Then Jesus summed up our responsibility to God with these words: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength!
What we see is that Jesus repeated the word “all” four times. So, the question arises: when do we “love the Lord God” as Jesus commanded? Is this love limited to our weekly spiritual exercises during our Sunday morning worship, which is just about 0.9% of our waking life? No, our love for God should be displayed all the waking hours of every day, every week, every month, and every year that we are alive on this earth!
Jesus Christ should be the supreme Lord of all of our life—not only of our time, but of our money and possessions as well. Dedicating all of our time to God does not mean apportioning so much to family, so much to a job, so much for ourselves, and a little left over for God. No, all of our lifetime belongs to God – they are currently on loan to us to manage for Him. Since God has given us the ability to earn money, so actually all of our earnings belong to Him. We are called to manage our money—not just what we give away, but what we keep too—according to His values. Apostle Paul says that “all things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). Even our bodies are temples of God (1 Cor. 6:19). God calls us to serve Him in all that we do (Col. 3:17), and with all that we have in us!
While the first commandment summarizes the first four of the Ten Commandments, the second is the essence of commandments five through ten, which relate to the treatment of other people. The second commandment (Lev. 19:18) teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to love God more than ourselves, and our neighbor as ourselves! Thus, the life that really counts is concerned first with God, then with others. The second commandment fittingly joins the first, because genuine love for God naturally results in a love for others. Love for our neighbor is the practical outworking of our love for God. According to James, this is the 'royal' law: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well" (James 2:8).
Thus, while the Old Covenant focused on the external practices of devotion, Jesus presents devotion as a matter of the heart. Devotion is a matter of developing an intimate relationship with the living God, learning the warmth of a life that draws near to His heavenly Father’s heart. Let us understand that only our total undivided love for God can empower us to truly love other people even as we love ourselves. Let us sincerely ask ourselves this question: Am I truly obeying God’s two greatest commandments – loving God and loving others?