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.