Have you ever heard of the greatest commandments? Jesus talks about them in Matthew 22:37-39:
“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.”
But the question is this: What makes these two commandments the greatest? Let’s take a look.
First of all, here’s something we need to understand. In Jesus’ time, there were a lot of laws, and you were penalized if you broke any of them. It was a pretty strict system. However, God knew that we could never follow the Law perfectly, because we are not perfect. And because we could not follow it perfectly, there was no way that following the Law could get His people into heaven. That’s why God sent Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, so that we could spend eternity with Him.
If you’ve ever read the Gospels, you know that the Pharisees (religious leaders) were not a big fan of Jesus. This was basically because He showed everyone what the Pharisees really were–hypocrites. Throughout the Gospels, they continuously throw trick questions at Jesus, trying to make Him look bad. Every time, Jesus comes out as the winner. Instead of making Him look like a fraud, their traps only proved Him to be what He really was–the Son of God.
The verses above are an example of one of the Pharisees’ plots. In Matthew 22:35-36, one of the religious leaders, who is very learned in the Law, asks Jesus which commandment is the greatest. Note that while the Pharisees had devoted their entire lives to studying the Bible (which, in these times, was composed of the Old Testament only), Jesus grew up as a carpenter and hadn’t received a formal education on these things.
And yet, because of who He is (God’s one and only Son), we see from the verses above that Jesus gives an answer that is full of wisdom, not to mention being absolutely right. These two commandments automatically sum up the original law, which was the Ten Commandments. Picture it: If you loved God with all your heart and soul and mind, you would never have any gods before Him or take His name in vain (two of the commandments). Also, if you loved your neighbor as yourself, you would never steal, bear false witness, or murder (another three commandments). These two, straightforward commandments plow through the confusion and show us what’s really important.
Another thing: God knows that these two rules, though simple, are not easy. He sees that we need His help to be able to love Him with everything we are. He understands that we need Him in order to learn to love other people as much as we love ourselves. Knowing this, He simplified the Law so that we could better understand it. At the same time, these two commandments are so great that they completely dwarf everything else. And while, because Jesus came, we don’t need the Law anymore in order to go to heaven, the two greatest commandments are still a great guide to your everyday life.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9 NIV)
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9 NIV)
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