If you have been reading many of my other posts, you will probably recognize an ongoing theme in the last few. It is because I just cannot emphasize this enough.
What does the Bible say is the greatest commandment? According to Wikipedia, Judaism (so says Wiki), and some Christian websites and churches, the greatest commandment is love. Love for what? Love for whom? Many would say to “love your neighbor as yourself” is the epitome.
In checking Wikipedia’s scripture references, I first found this commandment listed as one among many others. When put into context in Leviticus 19:18, I found the full verse states,
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD”.
This verse is sandwiched right in the middle of a whole host of other moral commands for the Israelites to follow. “Love thy neighbor” does not appear to be specially singled out here.
Matthew 7:12, Galatians 5:14, and Romans 13:8-10 appear to single this commandment out by restating the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Is it possible the writers of these books (all New Testament ones; two letters of Paul’s to new churches) assumed (since they were addressing Christians) their readers were already applying the greatest commandment of loving God?
In any case, Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-27 showcase Jesus revealing the greatest commandment. “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." (Matt. 22:34-40).
This command originally comes from the Old Testament Law Book, Deuteronomy 6:5.
Even in the passage Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus is speaking to young, rich man. Reading it in full, it says,
“Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Notice the last part, “All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (emphasis mine).
In other words, Jesus was telling the man to step out of worldly desires and love God (Jesus) with everything left-the man’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Other examples of Jesus elevating loving God (Jesus) above the poor and needy (although He obviously loved and helped them) include the recording of the sinful woman who poured a very expensive perfume on Jesus’ head and washed His feet with her tears.
The disciples fussed the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor as it was worth a year’s wages. Jesus rebuked them and said,
“Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matt. 26:10-11) [See also John 12:1-8, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50, and Matthew 26:6-13]
The second example is found in Luke 10:38-42, in which listening and being enraptured by God (Jesus) is hailed as better thing than “doing” tasks for Him.
“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her".
Without doubt, the Greatest Commandment is not to love others, but to “love the Lord your God” with all your might first, and foremost.