The Greatest Commandment (Part I)
With All Your Heart and Soul
As I have mentioned before, my favorite sport to watch is football, and I recently took an online test of how well I knew the rules of the NFL. I went into the test fairly confident, but the scenarios became more and more complex and I began to fail miserably. There are technically 18 rules listed in the Official Playing Rules of the National Football League, but it takes 68 pages to list these rules because each rule has multiple sections and articles under it. Additions and expansions of rules is also what happened to the ten commandments.
What became known as the Mosaic Law or Law of Moses contained over 613 rules and laws, but God only gave ten commandments to Moses. One example of this expansion is the fourth commandment which states, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” The sections and articles that religious leaders had added to this went so far as to put a limit on the number of steps one could take on the Sabbath before walking was considered work. In fact, twice Jesus was confronted for “working” on the Sabbath when he performed two miracles (Mark 2 & 3). So the religious leaders who were making these rules and laws once asked Jesus, in an attempt to trap/trick him, “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22:37-40)
There was no retort for Jesus’ reply. In fact Jesus goes on to ask them a question and afterward “no one dared to ask him any more questions” (v. 46). In this three-part series, we are going to examine what Jesus said was the greatest commandment.
So what does it mean to love God with all your heart? We relate love to our heart—when we marry someone, we say we’ve given them our heart. The imagery of hearts and love are inseparable, and I believe loving God with all of our heart is to love Him above all others. So if you had to choose between the person you love most and God, you would choose God. It means to desire nothing else but the Lord; as the psalmist put it, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25)
What about loving God with all your soul? Souls are even more abstract than our hearts, but it seems that the soul is what lives on—essentially we are not our bodies or even our personalities as much as we are our souls.
“Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
“Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)
As author, poet, and Christian minister George MacDonald once wrote, “We don't have a soul. We are a soul. We have a body." The soul is our essence; it is our bodies that will fail and die, but our souls then go to be at home with the Lord. So how do we love God with all our souls? That is to love God with your very essence, with your whole identity. So what is your identity? We may have many things that identify us—our citizenship, our job, our hobbies—but our true identity is that we are children of God. So we are to love God like a child loves a parent. We obey, we come to Him for comfort, we tell Him our wants and needs and desires, we praise Him. This is loving God with your essence, loving Him with all your soul.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.