“One of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.’ And the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” Mark 12:28-34 (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
The Scribes, always stirring chatter and controversy with the Pharisees and Jesus, had been trying to pinpoint Jesus on “to dos,” and He always pointed them higher and deeper than they’d anticipated. Now one with an earnest desire to understand asked which commandment was most important. Jesus responded that the greatest was not so much a task to follow or an activity to avoid, but a matter of who ruled the heart. The light seemed to go on for this honest seeker; he realized this was a call above and beyond offering tangible sacrifices, to love.
God is one, a singular God, not to be mixed with the strange and foreign gods of image, money, self, professional or personal accomplishments, family. And He is to be Number One, first and only on the throne of our hearts, the object of our soul’s deepest affection. The first two commandments emphasize this unique place of God, setting the stage for all other commandments, and the Shema (“The Lord our God, the Lord is one”), recited several times daily by the Hebrews, reminded them of the oneness of their God. It does us well to keep these truths at the fore also. (Exodus 20:3-5)
Our tendency can be to want to do things, to be busy, and check off commands with our deeds and meetings and work of our hands, when the Lord calls us to be sure our hearts are the true altar. Have I laid down self for my Savior? Am I acting from love for my God? Is my devotion to Him, or to the thing or deed or to serve my wants?
“Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart;
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.” ~Dallan Forgaill (530-598)
Lord on high, You are the One and Only. Captivate my whole heart with this truth, and engage all of my efforts to adore You before all else, and exalt You above all others.