Love God with Everything You Are

Around twenty years before Christ, Rabbi Hillel was approached by a Gentile convert to Judaism who asked him to summarize the whole law while he stood on one leg (An expression that means to summarize quickly). Hillel’s answer was a negative version of the Golden Rule, “What you hate for yourself, do not to your neighbor. This is the whole law; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.” [1] Both before and after Jesus, rabbis answered this question differently. One said Proverbs 3.6 is the heart of the law: in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Beginning in Matthew 22.34-36, Jesus is approached by a Pharisee [2], an expert in the law, who tests him by asking which is the greatest commandment. This is after Jesus had silenced the Sadducees. Now, they conspire together on another way to defeat Him. The lawyer’s question, which command in the law is the greatest, was a common practice by the Jews who made many efforts to summarize the law.

Considering Mark’s account, this is not a generic question with innocent motives. The lawyer is looking for a way to charge Jesus with blasphemy. The scribes said Moses received 613 commands in the law, with 248 being affirmative and 365 being negative. The lawyer wanted to know Which of these should have been ranked first. Jesus provides His answer without hesitation. Some say this is the most straightforward response of all of Jesus’ answers to questions he was asked.

Love God
The word for love in Deuteronomy 6.5 (the passage Jesus quotes from) refers mainly to an act of the will and mind. While emotion may undoubtedly be involved, the most essential characteristics of this love are someone’s dedication and commitment. It is a love of action. It is a love of purpose and self-sacrifice. It is a whole-being response.

Heart, Soul, and Mind
In Hebrew, the heart involves the core of one’s identity. From the heart spring our thoughts, words, and actions. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life, Proverbs 4.23.
We are to love God with all our souls. This word can refer to our emotions, see Matthew 26.38. Our relationship with God has an emotional component that should be fully employed in our devotion to Him.

We must love God with all our minds. This word has to do with our purposes and intentions. We must move our will to get on board with God’s plan.
We should also include Mark’s addition as he includes the word strength, Mark 12.30. God is calling for the highest form of sacrifice – our entire self and physical capabilities.

From this we learn:
  • Our love for God is intelligent.
  • It has feelings.
  • It is willing.
  • It is serving [3].

Listed Distinctly
Note how loving God with our hearts, souls, and minds are not joined. They are spread apart. We are to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, and with all of our minds. This is meant to express the greatest amount possible. God is not looking for someone who wants to go through the motions or perform a few rituals to check off a list. God’s wholehearted love “must not be answered in a halfhearted manner.”[4] His sons and daughters are to be characterized by whole-being love for Him. We are to love God with everything we are.
   [1] Barclay, p. 341.
   [2] Mark 12.28 describes this expert in the law as a Scribe.
   [3] MacArthur, John F., Jr. Matthew. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1985, Vol. 3, p. 339. 
   [4] Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, p. 809
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Matthew Allen

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