Matthew 22: 37 – 40 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. ”
The USDA has given us a food pyramid to tell us how many servings of the major food groups we need each day in order to keep our bodies in the greatest health. We are encouraged to get the most of those food groups that are best for us. Those foods that do not provide as much benefit, we are told to eat in moderation. Lastly, those foods which we need the least of are found at the top of the pyramid. We need to eat these sparingly, but most importantly, we must make sure that our diet does not revolve around these foods. The food pyramid shows us what the foundation of our eating plan must be – those foods which are absolutely necessary for our body to maintain its basic function and those that offer the greatest nutritional value per serving. We are to base our daily eating plan around these foundation foods. The foods on the other two tiers of the pyramid are essential, yet we cannot plan what we each eat day around them.
God desires for us to live a balanced spiritual life, which in His kingdom is a life focused on Him. Matthew 22:37 – 40 provides for us a three-tiered model similar to the USDA’s balanced eating plan, but a model for how we can live a balanced spiritual life. We must build our spiritual life on a strong foundation. Other aspects of our spiritual life are essential, yet our spiritual life cannot be built around them
In Matthew 22:37-40, Christ speaks to us of loving God with our whole heart, soul and mind. He tells us that this is the first, or primary, and greatest commandment. With a love for God like this, all of His other commands are possible. Deuteronomy 30:6 tells us that once we decide that we want to love God in this way and to receive all the benefits a love like this brings, God himself will circumcise our hearts that we may ” love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. ” Our God creates in us the heart that is able to love Him in the way He desires and deserves, if we will only ask. God requires a willing heart, which He then takes and creates from it the heart which can best love Him. The foundation of our spiritual walk must be our love for God. In terms of the food pyramid that we discussed earlier, our love for God gives us the greatest “nutritional” blessing per serving. Our love for God must be the “food group” around which our day’s eating, or living, plan is designed. He tells us in verse Matthew 22:38 that the commandment to love Him is the first commandment. It is of the greatest importance and we must make it our greatest priority. If we make our love for God the foundation of all we do, we can operate at our greatest capacity, ready to run the race He has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Matthew 22:39 gives us the second most important commandment, saying ” And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Once we have set the foundation of loving God and He has circumcised our hearts that we may do so, God tells us what to do with that love. We are to pour it out on others. We are commanded to love others as we love ourselves. This means that we must put others needs, desires and wants ahead of our own, as if they are our own. This love is an unselfish love. As God so unselfishly sent His son to die for our sins in the most loving act ever committed, we are to unselfishly put others ahead of ourselves (Hebrews 10:10). John 13:35 says that this is the test as to whether we are truly Christ’s disciples, whether or not we have ” love one to another “. An ability to love others comes directly from the love that we have for God and His love made manifest in us. If we are not loving God, spending time with Him daily, fellowshipping with Him, talking to Him in prayer, and daily turning our lives over to Him, we will not be able to love others in the manner He desires. Our love for Him is the foundation of our lives. If we go back to the food pyramid, we must focus most of our energy on our relationship with Him. We must get the most “servings per day” of the Lord our God. Following that, we must take the love that He pours into us and pour it out onto others. The second most important aspect of a balanced spiritual life is the love for others and yet, the love for others cannot exist without the love for God.
The last statement that Christ makes in Matthew 22:37-40 is that ” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophet.” You can put the law and the teaching of the prophets at the very top of our food pyramid. Just as those things at the top of the food pyramid are essential to our daily function, they are not what we can base our entire eating plan around. Yet look, the law and the teaching of the prophets hangs from the first two commandments that Christ gave us. What does this mean? This means that our focus must be on loving God above all. Out of the overflow of our hearts, we must love others. And then we must obey God. And why do we obey God? We obey Him because we love Him. In John 14:15, Christ says, ” If ye love me, keep my commandments “. The commandment to keep God’s law hangs on the commandment to love Him because without this love, obedience would not be possible. Obedience to God’s laws alone does not bring about salvation, nor a relationship with Him. Salvation is possible only through the acceptance of Christ as your personal Saviour (Romans 10:13). Ephesians 2:8-9 says, ” For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast .” Keeping God’s laws without a relationship with Him will get us nowhere in God’s kingdom. Just as we cannot base our daily diet around the fats and sweets at the top of the food pyramid, we cannot base our spiritual diet around works and the law. The law is empty without a relationship with Christ.
We see in Matthew 22:37-40, that just as we have essentials in our diets and guidelines for which we should eat, Christ gives us guidelines for how we are to live our spiritual life with Him. Our day must revolve around, be based upon, and draw most of it’s essentials from our personal relationship with Him. Just as there are certain food groups around which we must base our diet, we must take in the most servings of Christ per day. Once we have spent time with Christ and have taken in His love, mercy and grace, we can move onto His second “essential food group”, which is loving others. Our love for others must be an outpouring of our love for and from God, therefore it must come about after we have let Him fill us up. It is essential that we love others, as long as we see that we are no good to those around us, unless we have spent time with God our Father. Lastly, our love for God manifests itself in our obedience to Him. We obey God because we love Him. Our obedience, just like our command to love others, is a direct result of loving God. If we do not love God, our works will be for naught, just as if we love others out of ourselves and not out of our love for God we will be of no use to our friends. This last commandment, to obey His commands, hangs on the other two. Sometimes obedience may seem to be a daunting task, and yet, if we are truly loving God, obedience becomes natural. It we love God with our whole hearts, we will be so filled up that we can’t help but love others. If we are truly loving others as we want to be loved, truly treating others are we desire to be treated, and truly placing others needs, desires, and wants ahead of our own, then we will be naturally obeying the law. Putting Christ and others first leads us into an obedient life.
My friends, pray that God would lead you into the balanced life that He desires you to have. Pray that He would circumcise your heart that you may love Him with all that you have. Pray that as He pours His love into you that you may in turn pour it out on others. Lastly, pray that He would guide you in keeping His commandments, that by keeping them, you may show Him just how much you love Him.