“Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

In the Gospel according to Matthew (22: 34-40), a scholar of Jewish law from the Sadducees comes to test Jesus. He asks, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Without hesitation, Jesus instructs him,

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. “

Then Jesus tops it off with this rejoinder: “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

I’m not sure what the scholar expected Jesus to say. Perhaps that there is no one commandment greater than another, it’s not the “Top 10 List of Greatest Commandments”? This is such a clear and concise and confirming answer.

Whenever I hear people point out the faults of others, especially when citing a commandment that someone has broken, I rarely if ever hear them cite either of these. And I often hear them complain about a list of other infractions that aren’t even on the list of commandments as if they were, and these people often fail to exhibit that they are being faithful to these two commandments.

While there are whole parts of the Gospel that supposed Christians love to quote over and over again, there are whole other parts that they love to skip over, this being chief among them.

Jesus clearly here tells us that more important than any other infraction against God is the failure to love God and love our neighbor. All other law depends on it. If you don’t put these commandments at the top of the commandments that guide you, the others mean little.

If you’re going to put a statute of The Commandments on your home, at your business, or on display in your public spaces, let it be these two commandments. Observance of the others will follow if you begin with these.


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