Priorities. We all have them. What matters most? In a whole list of things, what is the absolute crux of the matter? Where should our focus be?
Matthew 22:34-46 (CEV)
The Most Important Commandment
34 After Jesus had made the Sadducees look foolish, the Pharisees heard about it and got together. 35 One of them was an expert in the Jewish Law. So he tried to test Jesus by asking, 36 “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus answered:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” 40 All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.
About David’s Son
41 While the Pharisees were still there, Jesus asked them,42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose family will he come from?”
They answered, “He will be a son of King David.”
43 Jesus replied, “How then could the Spirit lead David to call the Messiah his Lord? David said,
44 ’The Lord said to my Lord:
Sit at my right side
until I make your enemies
into a footstool for you.’
45 If David called the Messiah his Lord, how can the Messiah be a son of King David?” 46 No one was able to give Jesus an answer, and from that day on, no one dared ask him any more questions.
The man who asks this question, is only trying to trip Jesus up; trying to get him to say something that will incriminate him and give them a chance to get rid of him. He is not seeking to know where his priority is, but in his question, we find out where Jesus’ priority is – the basis for his life, work and what he is trying to teach.
As Jesus answers he underlines the priorities and basis for ‘getting it right‘, living God’s way. He gives not one, but two intertwined rules:
“Love God” without that as our basis, we will get nowhere. Whatever we try to do to live his ways will fail and be meaningless. We can only do anything effectively if it stems from our love for God. But this isn’t the wishy-washy might change our mind tomorrow love of ‘I love chocolate’, or ‘I love this jumper’. This is the love and commitment of everything we have – “love God with all your heart, soul and mind” – everything, our emotions, our will, every part of our being, the very depths and essence of who I am.
That is the basis for our love. But it is not an abstract love. We don’t just go around with a warm fuzzy feeling about God – we have to act on it, it has to inform how we respond in all situations. And so the second part comes,
“Love others as much as you love yourself” – loving God must lead to a response. True love of him will involve love of everyone else, treating them and acting towards them as if they are the God we love. That is measured against how much we love ourselves.
There are two main problems that can get in the way of that: either we love ourselves too much, or we don’t love ourselves enough.
If we love ourselves too much, we can’t see the other person and their need. It becomes all about me, making sure I have what I need, that things work for me and my ways. I am all-consuming and others are missed.
If we don’t love ourselves enough, the problem can go one of two ways. Either I am so insignificant, that I can’t see how you can be of any worth either; or I feel so badly about myself, I have to spend my time making sure people see me and love me (which probably comes across as loving myself too much), and I have little energy left for anyone else.
This is why these three things go together.
In our love of God, can we find a proper love of ourselves? A perspective of ourselves that recognises our worth and loveliness, but also our place in God’s love. From that we have time and energy to see others for who and where they are – and love them with the same love God empowers us with.
So love, intertwined between ourselves, God and all those others. Love as the priority, the foundation, the most important thing. All flowing from the love God has for us.
Help me Lord
to live in your love,
the knowledge of the depth
of your love for me.
In and through that,
May I love you,
learn a proper love for myself
and live in true love of others.