Matthew 22:34-40 (Part 1) – Getting This Right, Everything Else Falls Into Place: Loving God With All Our Heart, Mind & Soul

Posted: March 7, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 22:34-40 (Part 1)
The Greatest Commandment

When you reflect on your life and the legacy that you want to pass on to your children and hopefully your grandchildren for them to know that you loved them. You can pass on things and trinkets to them, but if they never knew that you loved them none of it really matters. Some of the richest children in the world end up searching the world for that thing that will make them fulfilled. They spend their father’s fortunes trying to find that missing thing. That missing thing is their father’s love. I have made many tall mistakes in my life with my kids. I am sure that they could recite you a litany of them. I was kid myself for a long time so I often acted immaturely when it came to parenting. It was not until that I met Jesus Christ when I was 39 years old that things began to change little by little. That is not to say that I became a good parent overnight after my salvation moment in December 2000. But, as the the Holy Spirit began His work in me, I think I began thinking of legacy more and more. What is it that I want to pass on to my children. First, and foremost, I want them to know that they were loved by me in a sacrificial way. I want them to know that I would and did do anything for them to make sure that they were safe and secure. I want them to know that even when we had disagreements that they were loved. I want them to know that even when I was tough on them that they were loved. Children who do not know the love of their father are often aimless and directionless in life. We can be disciplinarians only and drive them away. We can be uninvolved and have the act out in ways that scream for their father’s love. At the end of the day, we as father’s have a duty to give our children not only our financial support, not only our discipline but also our love, especially our love. Without a father’s well-rounding parenting (financial support, discipline, and love), they will seek solace in things that are not good for them and often destructive for them. Children are designed by God to understand and feel the love of their fathers. So, on my death’s bed, what I want most for my children to take away from my life is to know that I loved them. That will have made the greatest difference in the world. It is that concept of the necessity of love that brings us to today’s Scripture passage, Matthew 22:34-40:

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus had silenced the Pharisees once already in this discourse. He had silenced the Sadducees as well. But the Pharisees wanted one more crack at Him. They not only wanted to discredit Jesus but they wanted to discredit Him now so as to prove themselves superior to the rival Sadducees. They sent their best lawyer forward. They sent forth their big gun, an expert in all the laws of the Old Testament. The reason that this was important to the Jewish religious elite was that their “business” relied on it. They were the arbiters of Mosaic law and over the centuries they had developed reams and reams of decisions and interpretations of the Law of Moses. They were meticulous in the codification of the Law of Moses. They had gone so far as to research and identify every command or regulation set for in the books of Moses in the Bible. The religious elite had documented 613 commandments in the Mosaic Law, 248 positive and 365 negative. Since no one could possibly keep them all, they divided them into “heavy” (more important) and “light” (less important). The Pharisees taught that the Jews needed to give attention to all the laws but particularly the “heavy” ones. This Pharisee was asking which of the “heavy” ones Jesus considered the “heaviest.” Jesus’ answer is pure gold. When you boil down the Old Testament commands they fall into two categories, one about loving God and the other about loving our neighbor. That is not only the message of the Old Testament but the Bible in its entirety – Love God, Love Others – pure and simple. It’s not complicated. But often we overcomplicate things. Just as I really do not care what else my children get from me when I am gone, things and trinkets don’t matter, what I want them to know is that I loved them. That’s not a complicated desire. It is rather simple. The Bible has these two lynchpins upon which everything rests. Love God. Love Others.

All the other laws deal with specific applications of one or the other of these two commands. The prophets consistently stressed the importance of heart reality with God and genuine love for one’s neighbor. Without these two commandments the Old Testament lacks unifying summaries. It is these two commands that were the stressing points of Jesus’ ministry, the point of all the gospels, and the epistles and even in the images of the end times in Revelation. We are to love God the way He loves us. We are to love our neighbor as God loves them. How does God love us, all of us? Enough to send His Son to die on a cross to take the wrath of God against sin, all sin, so that we could be reconciled with Him. That’s how much we should love God back and that’s how we should love our neighbors, both friend and foe alike.

We should notice that loving God comes first before loving neighbors. If we do not get the first one right, the second one will never come. If we love God, we will obey Him. If we love God our obedience comes from the fact that we want to please Him. If we love God with all our heart, mind, and soul (the totality of our being), then obedience to His Word comes naturally. It is not a burden. It is not a checklist. It enables us to go against our sin nature in an effort to please the center of our affection, God. He loves us dearly. He loves us in a costly way. He came to earth in the flesh as Jesus and died on the cross not because He had to do it. He could have simply written us off and condemned us to hell in our sinful nature and by all rights should do so. Yet, He loves us enough to make a way for us to reconcile with Him. Just as we as parents, who truly love their children, always leave the door open for reconciliation with our children even when we are angry at time for rebelling against us and our authority in their lives. God is the same way about us. He loves us to the ends of the earth. We are His children and He aches for us to return home. He loves us that much. When we realize how much He loves us (when we accept what He did on the cross through Jesus), that’s when we come home to Him and luxuriate in His love. We love Him back and we obey Him not because of some checklist mentality of false religion but rather out of pure thanksgiving to Him for His constant love, care, and provision for us through Jesus Christ. When we get that right, everything else falls in line. Without knowing the love of God and returning it to Him, we try to act as if He doesn’t exist and we make ourselves gods and we become self-centered and selfish. Life unfilled. Life seeking something we will never find. We are wired to be His children. Only true fulfillment can come through a right relationship with God. When we do that, we do not see His commands as restrictions. We see His commands as the guidance of our loving parent toward that which beneficial for us and for us as a collection of people who love and obey the Lord. It is all foolishness though to those who do not have a right relationship with God. It is only through Jesus Christ that we begin to understand what God is trying to do. It is not unlike a child who was rebellious as a teenager and thinks that their dad is the stupidest, meanest man in the world until they get out in the world on their own. Then he becomes smart again. When they have kids of their own, their dad becomes almost brilliant.

Tomorrow we will look at the second most important lynchpin of the Old Testament Law and the whole point of the New Testament. Loving our Neighbors. Sometimes, that seems a taller order than loving God. It will be if we don’t get today’s point right – loving God. Our world today is in its desperate shape that it is in because many of us love ourselves first and foremost. Nothing works out that way it seems. It is only when we love God with all our heart, mind, and soul and thus are in total submission to God’s leadership over our lives that we can have a world that functions properly. We can’t get two the loving others until we get to loving God. Love God first. Love God first always. The rest will take care of itself and flow from that simple submissive love to the Author and Creator of all things.

Amen and Amen.

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