The First of the Two Greatest Commandments

             In Matthew 22, some men ask Jesus about the greatest. Jesus’ reply is that the first is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Even today in modern American culture, the second resonates with people of all faiths and even those with no faith. Variations and paraphrases of the second greatest commandment such as “treat others how you want to be treated” are posted even on public school walls. The first commandment however, makes some people’s stomachs churn.

            At first glance, this commandment may seem unreasonable. In fact some people get indignant about the fact that God is commanding His children to love Him with everything. Love God with our entire hearts, minds and souls? Love God above everything? Not only is it a commandment but it is one of the two greatest commandments according to Jesus. Many nonbelievers and some believers are skeptic of this commandment. Commandments like “you shall not murder,” “you shall not steal” and “you shall not bear false witness” make sense even to nonbelievers. But what kind of God tells His people to love Him with everything they have and worship only Him? Some may say only a dictator style God would. I believe it is a God that always has our overall wellbeing at heart.

            God’s commandments are not simply a bunch of rules. God is not sitting in Heaven waiting for each one of us to mess up and then zap us with lightning. Nor did God give us commandments in order to ruin our fun. His commands serve their purposes and whether we want to admit it or not, He always knows best. In cases like “you shall not murder,” the purpose is somewhat obvious. Sometimes these purposes are not quite as clear though, especially to nonbelievers or even those new to the faith. Like His other commandments, this commandment about loving God with our all serves a very important purpose. God knows what we need. He knows that we will try to fill our hearts with everything from money to fame to relationships. None of these things are inherently bad but when we obsess over them, we will only be left feeling empty in the end. When we chase after things of this world more than the One who created them, we are always left hungry for more. We end up always wanting the newest gadgets, recognition for every good and/or successful thing we do, the hottest significant other…the list is as long as the ocean is deep. These things will not and cannot satisfy us though. Only He can. Jesus said “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

           With this commandment to love God with our all, God is leading us and showing us the way to avoid the deep pain that comes from when we depend on the things of this world and they fail us. He knows that all the things of this world will fail us at some point or other. He’s telling us to cling to the One who lasts forever rather than the things in this world that are fading faster than we may care to admit or even realize. We still have the choice to choose Him or to reject Him. Like any choice there are consequences. If we chose the things of this world, we will be left empty at some point or other. If we choose Him, we will find joy beyond our imaginations.



8 thoughts on “The First of the Two Greatest Commandments

  1. My brother who is not yet a believer says this about why does God need us to worship Him. A reason he uses not to follow. You did a great job of putting this into perspective. As always, I very much enjoyed read your post!

      • Thanks for praying for him. His name is Rob.
        I am ok, my heart is broke. I have been reading some about how to deal. They say mostly it will take time. Thanks for asking.

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  3. Which is the most important?
    Jesus was asked twice, by two different men, the same basic question about which is the most important or greatest commandment in the Law. Here is how Jesus answered that question:

    “One of the teachers of the law… asked him [Jesus],
    ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

    “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]

    …an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

    Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]

    But in contrast with Jesus, Paul the Pharisee didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote:
    “The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]

    And again, Paul wrote:
    “He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]

    Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to
    .1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and
    .2) second, love people.
    Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.

    This is very similar to The Beatles- “All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love, Love, Love.” (In other words, the second commandment, the love of man, without the love of God. Love as me, myself and I define love to be, and continuously redefined by sinful men.)

    In essence, it is also the same principle as what Eve did in the Garden of Eden, forgetting about the Tree of Life, which is the first tree in the middle of the Garden, and instead referring to the second tree as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” [Genesis 3:3 & 2:9 2:17, 3:24]

    Kind of like the Pharisees with Jesus, who were pushing the false idea that we can consider ONE commandment in the Law, alone in isolation, to be “the greatest commandment in the Law.”

    Or like today, false teachers in the Chrislam – Purpose Driven – Seeker Sensitive – Emergent – Liberal – Ecumenical – New Age – world church movement pushing the false idea that the ONE RULE is “Loving God and Neighbor together.”

    The Lord God Jesus the Jewish Messiah, Son of Yahweh the Most High God of Israel, said:
    “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.”
    Not one. TWO.

    Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.

    Here are answers to 2 common objections:
    .a) What about the so-called “Golden Rule”?
    Jesus spoke the 3 chapters of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, including 7:12. Jesus didn’t make PART of this one verse out of context into “The Golden Rule” or “one rule.” Jesus did not use the term “Golden Rule,” it’s simply a tradition of men. The sentence begins with “So” in the NIV and Amplified Bibles, and “Therefore’ in the NASB and King James Bibles, which ties 7:12 to the previous sentences. So 7:12 cannot stand alone as One Commandment.

    .b) What about the so-called “Great Commission”?
    Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, including “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus never used the term “Great Commission,” it’s simply a tradition of men. Yes I agree it’s a commandment given by Jesus, it’s not optional, and it applies to us today. We need to carry this out, with our own God-given abilities and talents, using the skills, and circumstances we have. But we don’t need to put words in the mouth of Jesus, we can let Jesus speak for himself, and we can listen to Him – and obey Him.

    Evangelism is part of the Second Commandment given by Jesus, to Love people. Evangelism is not the most important commandment, and it isn’t the entire Second Commandment. So if our priorities are “The Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” we have our priorities upside down and confused, and we are not listening to the voice of Jesus. Never mind what Paul said. Let’s listen to the voice of Jesus first, and get our priorities straight.

    The people who will protest most loudly against this truth are the modern “Pauls:” traveling evangelists, speakers, writers, abusive absentee mega-church pastors, Crusaders, and self-appointed “apostles” like Paul, who find it “profitable” to “be like Paul” rather than follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

    • Thank you for sharing. I’m not 100% sure of your point because this was not meant to be a post about the two commandments together or even how they work together. I was simply trying to talk about this one part of what Jesus said because a lot of us like to ignore it because it doesn’t fit with the culture. I wasn’t putting more importance on either of the two commandments that Jesus talked about in these passages.

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