35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question,tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
I love this section of Matthew. I had an Aha! moment about it last year and now I think about it a lot.
We talk a lot about commandments as Christians and we try to be good and stay within the lines I think. Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by the minutiae of what we think of as all of the rules that we are supposed to follow. We can feel crushed by all of the things we think we have to be doing to be on the right path. Church culture can often make us feel this way even if it isn’t actually how things really need to be done. Notice I said culture and not doctrine.
But here, Jesus puts it all in a nutshell. Small and easy to understand. It fits in your pocket. It can be memorized and made to be a part of you.
He says the first commandment is to love God with all that you are – heart, soul and mind. You can’t do that unless you actually work on having a real relationship with this real person who cares for and loves you. There’s work to be done there. To get to know Him and how He works and how He speaks to you. Just like making a friend with your next door neighbor or the person you met at knitting group, it takes work and it takes time. You ask questions about them and you share parts of yourself and the relationship grows. The awesome thing is that God wants to tell you things. He wants to share things with you and He wants you to tell Him about your day – even though He already knows. I think that part is sort of like you listening to your three year old tell you what he just did even though you were with him the whole time.
Let’s look at the first few of the ten commandments in Exodus 20.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
The first four of the ten commandments are about how we think about God and treat him and worship Him. He wants to be a priority in your life. He wants you to respect Him and love Him. He already loves you. Just the way you are. He wants to have a relationship with you. And He gave you a whole day every week to focus on Him and improve your relationship with Him.
In Matthew, Jesus says the second commandment is like the first. Isn’t that funny? Not funny haha. Funny interesting. Love thy neighbor as thyself is similar or as important as the first commandment. God thinks it is just as important for us to be kind, love and care for each other as it is to love and care about Him. Think about that. Are you caring about the needs of others as much as you are worrying about getting to live with God again? The second one might be a little bit harder than the first when you actually think about it because God already loves you just the way you are. That guy in line at the grocery store, or the family standing near you at the amusement park, or the guy that just pulled right out in front of you on the road, probably aren’t thinking about you at all but Jesus says it is your job to think about them and love them.
That lady at church that said something about the shortness of your skirt? or your hair color? or told you that you stink at doing whatever you are doing? yes, them too. The second commandment is definitely harder than the first I think.
So let’s look at the last 6 commandments that Moses got.
12 ¶ Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
See that? All of those are about how to treat people. Be respectful of their position. Don’t put your hands on other people’s things, don’t lie and stop being jealous of what other people have. Honestly, those 6 are a little easier than what Jesus said, I think. The above 6 commandments would make it easy to just live in your own house and not bother with anyone else. Jesus takes it 25 steps further. You need to love other people. That means getting out of your own house and out in public and doing something about it. Sit with them in their sorrow. Listen to their worries. Comfort them. Take a message of hope. Help them to feel like they are not alone.
None of this requires money or hard physical labor and if you read the new testament, Jesus had no money and most often He was bringing messages of hope. He wasn’t doing the work for them but He was there to show people how real love feels and we can definitely do that.
What does verse 40 mean? On these two commandments hang all the laws and the prophets.
The Gospel is all about love. We cannot say we love God but then turn around and treat each other poorly. (check out John 4:20-21. If we show love to our fellow human beings in this life we are demonstrating the love we feel for God himself. Without that love all of the work of creation is worthless. We can check all of the things off of our list but if we don’t have that Christlike love none of it matters. The measure of our souls is love after everything else.