Crossroads: What Is the Greatest Commandment?

Matthew 22:34-40

Your Story

Talk about ways you have shown your love for God. Talk about ways you have shown love to your neighbor.

My Story and the Bible Story

As a rule follower, I also want to know the order of the rules. Which rules are most important? Are there rules that we can actually ignore? Which is the rule we absolutely must follow? The Ten Commandments are important rules. “Don’t murder” is really important. But so are “don’t steal” and “don’t lie about your neighbor.” “Don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff ” is important too, because that could lead to stealing your neighbor’s stuff. And “only worship God” is very important, and so is “put God first.” All of these commandments are important, but which one is most important? Are there ones that we can ignore?

The Pharisees thought they could trap Jesus with these kinds of questions. After all, Moses got the Ten Commandments from the Lord. The people knew they were all important, so they asked Jesus which one was most important. No matter which one he said, they could get him in trouble if he left out the rest. If he said that “worship God” was most important, then what about “do not murder”? Could they let people get away with murder? Certainly not! So the Pharisees thought they had Jesus trapped. But in Matthew 22, Jesus takes the Ten Commandments and uses two to show the people what the greatest commandments are.

Read Matthew 22:34-40.

Love God. Love people. These are the two greatest commandments. In fact, Jesus reminds his listeners that everything else is based on these two commandments. “Don’t murder” falls under “love your neighbor as yourself.” “Don’t covet,” “don’t steal,” and “don’t lie to your neighbor” also fall under “love your neighbor.” “Put God first” and “only worship God” fall under “love God with everything you have.” All of the Ten Commandments, and everything else the prophets told the people to do, fall under these two commandments.

When we prioritize the rules, we do so in order to try to get out of following all of them. We try to see which rules are okay to break and which ones are important. But Jesus reminds us of what we are supposed to do: we are to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our neighbors are the people around us, people we like and people we don’t like, people who live next door and people who live around the world. Our neighbors are everyone God has created—and God has created everyone on Earth.

A lot of times, we are guilty of trying to fit God into our lives, of spending five minutes with God when we have a free moment and then ignoring God for the rest of the day. But when we love God with everything we have, that means we put God first. We put God before our friends and before video games. We put God before homework and before dinner. We live our lives putting God first instead of putting God last. We live our lives in prayer, telling God about what’s going on, giving thanks for what God has done, and asking God for help. And we remember that God is in charge, not us.

What is the greatest commandment? There are two of them: “love the Lord your God with everything you have,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” When you do these things, you will be following God.

Discussion and Prayer

  1. Have you put God first this week? Talk about ways to put God first in your lives.
  2. How have you shown love to your neighbor this week? How can you show love to those around you?
  3. Pick a specific way to show love to the people around you in the coming week.
  4. Pray, giving thanks that God tells us how to live. Ask for help to put God first and to show love to our neighbor.

Rev. Jessica Asbell is the Minister to Children and Families at First Baptist Roswell, where she has been serving since 2012. She has written the children’s curriculum for Smyth & Helwys’s Annual Bible Study for the books of Daniel; Ezekiel; Luke; Jonah; 1 Corinthians; 1, 2, 3 John and Jude; Colossians; The Story of Israel’s Ancestors: Living toward a Promise; and Where Faith & Family Meet: A Book of Weekly Devotions. She has also written for CBF’s Spark and Form and for Affect in CBF’s fellowship! magazine. Married to Jonathan Oravec, Jessica reads every chance she gets.

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