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What Is the Significance of the Greatest Commandment?

When Jesus condenses all the commands into just two verses, He is giving us a blueprint on how we should live our lives. He simplifies following God in our everyday lives and shows us how it is possible to, then, obey all of the commands.

Published Sep 15, 2022
What Is the Significance of the Greatest Commandment?

In Scripture, we find that God has hundreds of commandments that we are to follow. The Talmud tells us there are 613 commands in the Torah alone. Throughout Scripture, we see commands on how we should act and how we shouldn’t. Examples of those are:

  • “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).
  • “For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:16).
  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
  • “Have no other Gods before me” (Exodus 20:2)

But out of all the commandments in Scripture, Jesus condenses them into just two. In Matthew 22, we read the following dialogue between the religious leader and Jesus.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus has nailed down a mast here and has declared with confidence that there are two things He considers the greatest commandments. Here He recites verses from Deuteronomy 6:5 and from Leviticus 19:18.

Both verses stem from the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and were written by Moses. He declared them on behalf of God to the people of Israel as commands for them to follow. Anchors for their soul and moral compasses to them on their journey through life.

But what is Jesus saying here? What is the significance of these words in our lives today?

“Love your neighbor as yourself” are the words repeated by Jesus in the New Testament, but the full verse found in Leviticus reads: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

I feel it is worth saying that in Jewish culture, memorizing Scripture was important, even today.

While Jesus only spoke five words from that verse, any Jew who heard those words would have known or recalled the full verse instantly.

They would have known that Jesus was also implying that not seeing revenge, not bearing a grudge, and loving our neighbor was all intrinsically tied together. They were not separate commands but part of one command spoken to the people of Israel.

How Does This Commandment Help Us Today?

When Jesus condenses all the commands into just two verses, He is giving us a blueprint on how we should live our lives. He simplifies following God in our everyday lives and shows us how it is possible to then obey all of the commands.

It intrigues me that Jesus focuses on only two issues, how we love God and then how we love others. It seems to me that Jesus is implying that one relationship cannot be fully functioning without the other.

The reality of our lives is it is impossible to love others, not just our enemies but even our friends, if we have not first set apart in our lives a deep-rooted love for God first.

In fact, friend, I would say it is impossible to do many things without God in his proper place, including parenting, marriage, work, and education. Everything in our lives flows firstly from our relationship with God the Father.

It goes without saying that in today’s world, we need to see more of Jesus. The world is a dark place at times, and we need to see more love for each other, less hate, more grace for each other, and less judgment.

If we loved God fully, with all our hearts, souls, and minds, as Jesus suggests, we may find that we are able to see each other through the eyes of Jesus. We are able to lay down our grievances and let God deal with our enemies.

We are able to see each other through the eyes of love instead of frustration and annoyance. We are able to provide for those we believe do not need help because it is exactly what God would have us do.

We must ask ourselves regularly the following question:

Is God Our Focus and How Well Do We Love God?

When we live our lives with our focus being on loving God, we find that we are able to change our thinking and restore the correct kind of relationship with others. This is an important question that tests the barometer of our relationship with God.

It helps us to refocus our Christian life and reshape our priorities, placing God back in the first spot. Taking away our desire for my will and replacing that with what Jesus declared in the gospels as Thy will.

Then we can ask follow-up questions like: are we as sacrificial with others as Jesus was? Do we put others before ourselves and choose to love even our enemies as ourselves?

I find the various commandments found in Deuteronomy 6 very interesting. These verses make it clear that it is so crucial that we never forget the commands of God. Moses is building a picture here that in our lives, we must build our homes and lives upon the commands of God.

It is essential that we teach them to our children so that they may not forget but also that they may find out the incredible truths of God’s grace and mercy in our lives.

The commands of God are not rules to trap us so that we cannot live healthy and happy lives, but rather they are the foundation upon which we live our lives.

They free us because God has thought through the commands; he knows why each one is of vital importance, and when we think them all through, the pattern God chooses becomes apparent. The commands of God are not to be played with but followed diligently and for good reason.

Why Does This Matter?

I wonder, friend, as we have looked at why these words are significant, where is your focus today? Are you loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and from that place, then, loving your neighbor as yourself? I sure hope so.

But if not, maybe you need to spend time with God and let him renew your mind so that you can be transformed into God's way of thinking rather than that of the world (Romans12:2).

If you have stumbled across this article and wondered, “Why bother following Jesus if He has so many commands?” Friend, let me tell you that Jesus loves you with a self-sacrificing, never-ending, everlasting love.

He does not want to bind you with laws and commands but to free you to live a life of love!

For further reading:

How Do I Love My Neighbor as Myself During COVID-19?

How Do We Know Who Our Neighbor Is?

How Do We Love the Lord with All Our Hearts, Souls, and Minds?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/lilkar


SWN authorMichelle Treacy is a Christian writer, a wife to Gerald, and a busy mother of three, Emily, Ava Rose, and Matthew. Finding time to write is not always easy. However, Michelle’s desire to write about Jesus, and passion to teach is what motivates her. Michelle writes on Instagram, Michelle_Treacy_, and WordPress at Thoughts From My Bible. If you meet her in person, you will likely find her with two things in hand, a good Christian book and a cup of tea!

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