Scripture has always taught God’s people to pursue God’s priorities. But over time, opinions differed on those priorities. No one’s opinion was conclusive. There were no guardrails on truth.
Religious leaders in Jesus’ day debated on the separation of the important commandments from the less-important ones. One day when Jesus was teaching in the temple, a scribe tossed this live grenade in front of Jesus to see where He stood in the debate:
What commandment is the foremost of all? —Mark 12:28
Jesus’ answer did more than weigh in on the longstanding disagreement.
It helped us understand how to balance our priorities.
The Greatest Commandment is Love. Yeah, So What?
What is the most important commandment? Jesus tells us:
The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. —Mark 12:29–31
Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4, a verse called the Shema, from the Hebrew term that translates the command: “hear.”
- This verse stressed the unity of God as one Lord—the Jews’ basic confession of faith.
- This fundamental truth is followed by the fundamental command: we should love God with all of who we are.
- All of the words “you” and “your” in these verses are singular in the original languages and speak to an individual’s responsibility to love God—not just to Israel’s duty in general. (Read Mark 12:29–31 again with that in mind.) While the Lord is “our God,” corporately, He is also “your God,” personally.
Even the Beatles told us “All We Need is Love.” So what does that look like, practically?
How We are to Love God
In the Lord’s own life, we see Jesus grew intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially (see Luke 2:52), and each of these areas is inherent in the greatest commandment.
Jesus revealed that our love for God should find its expression in practical terms. We love God with the whole person:
- spiritually (“with all your heart, and with all your soul”)
- intellectually (“with all your mind”)
- physically (“with all your strength”)
- socially (“love your neighbor as yourself”—a verse Jesus added from Leviticus 19:18).
We hear in Jesus’ words the essence of God’s priorities as well as God’s prescription for a balanced life.
Paul added a big “Amen”
The apostle Paul later echoed these principles in a passage that reveals our responsibility to respond to God’s mercy as a whole person. Observe the brackets that reveal the four areas of growing like Jesus:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice [physical], acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship [spiritual]. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment [intellectual], as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another [social]. (Romans 12:1–5)
So, how do we live out Paul’s words and love God with our whole being? We determine to follow Jesus and grow like He did.
How Jesus Determined His Priorities
At the outset of Jesus’ ministry, His compassion and power to heal physical diseases gave Him enormous popularity with the masses. After a full evening of healing many physical diseases, Jesus rose early the next morning and found a quiet place to be alone and pray (Mark 1:35). But His quiet time was interrupted.
“Everyone is looking for You,” the disciples blurted after finding Jesus. Why did the people want Jesus? They wanted their physical needs met.
But note how Jesus responded—and more importantly, why:
Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for. —Mark 1:38
Jesus first looked to the Father for His priorities, rather than to people, and then Jesus determined to live these priorities.
What a tremendous model.
Question: What helps you to keep your priorities balanced? To leave a comment, just click here.
From Wayne Stiles, “All of Me: Growing as a Whole Person,” Growing Like Jesus: Pursuing Health for the Whole Person (IFL Publishing House, 2009).