God called Moses aside and gave him the basic rules of conduct for His people. We call them the Ten Commandments. They go like this:
(Beginning with No. 5)
Honor your father and your mother
You shall not murder
You shall not commit adultery
You shall not steal
You shall not bear false witness
You shall not covet
Numbers five through ten deal with our personal relationships, how we treat each other. If we observe these, we will have good relationships, a good reputation and probably good reciprocity. It is admirable to be known as one who respects his parents, would not even consider taking another’s life or be unfaithful to his/her spouse. A person would be considered trustworthy if he would never steal, lie or covet what others have. What’s not to like about a person like that?
Jesus was asked the question by a young man with great possessions, “What can I do to inherit eternal life?” That is a very important question, one that everyone should ask. No doubt the questioner expected to be told of some great deed he could do which would mark him as a great man whom folks could look up to and admire and engender God’s favor and grant him entrance into the Kingdom of God.
What he heard at first must have made him feel proud. “Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother” (Mark 10:19). He quickly answered, “I have always done these things since I was a child.”
With great love, Jesus looked at him and said “Empty your coffers and distribute it to the poor [paraphrased by me].” Jesus discerned that the young man’s pride and confidence lay in his storehouse, and it was the statement of who he was. To give up his riches and give them to another would strip him of whom he perceived himself to be. He wasn’t able to see that he was listening to advice that would bring greater wealth than he could imagine as an heir of God with untold riches in heaven!
The young man thought keeping six of the ten commandments made him “good.” He was sure that he was so good that he didn’t need to consider the “other four.”
Have no other gods before God
Create no image to worship instead of God
Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain
Keep the Sabbath day holy
Only by loving God more than his riches would he be able to successfully keep the last six.
The “other four” represent abandonment of self to the One who would instill the kind of love that could obey the command to “give all you have to the poor” if the Master asked you to.
The last six commandments have to do with our relationships and our personal happiness and contentment as we relate to each other. They would eliminate strife among family, friends and others we have to interact with every day, but they will not make us good enough to enter the Kingdom of God. This was what the young man failed to see. He thought he was already good and sadly turned away from Jesus. What he heard startled him and caused him to reject the answer and attempt to defend his personal integrity.
Jesus was asked which commandment was the great one. His answer is our clarion call to obedience today.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart [where our emotions have root], and with all thy soul [where our decisions originate], and with all thy mind [our intellect]. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37, 38).
This is actually the “base” commandment. All others are built upon this “great commandment.” Jesus went on to say that the second commandment was like the great one, “And the second is like unto it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).
Thomas Aquinas put it like this: "Lord, in my zeal for love of truth, let me not forget the truth about love."
And James' insight caused him to write in James 2:8, "If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,' ye do well."
If the rich young man had lived by the “other four” commandments, he would have understood what Jesus had suggested and loved his neighbor as himself, sharing his riches with the less fortunate. I suspect that Jesus would not have required him to lose his ability to make a living and become a beggar. If he had agreed to Jesus’ proposal, he would have been in a position to reap what he was about to sow. What he gave away would have been ‘seed’ for his future crops, and the crops multiply the seeds many times over.
The “great commandment” is hinged to the second one. When we love God with our whole being, we have the capacity to love and esteem others as ourselves. Jesus continued his discourse on the commandments by saying, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40). In other words, when we keep the “great” commandment and the hinged second one, we are keeping the whole law! When we love the Lord with unconditional love, the other “loves” just automatically fall in line.
So, certainly, we should keep commandments five through ten; but if we want to have a successful Christian life and please the Lord, we will begin by keeping the “other four”—Love and honor our Lord, respect what His love demands which includes loving each other—unconditionally.
Several years ago when I attended Corbin, Kentucky Church of God, we did the children’s musical “Down By the Creek Bank” by Dottie Rambo. A cute little song still stands out in my mind that pretty much sums up the “great” commandment.
by Dottie Rambo
Love is a very special thing,
A smile—a tear, a soft summer rain.
It has no beginning, it has no end,
But I like it best when it’s shared with a friend
Love is never stuffed up,
Never puffed up,
Never gives up when the going’s rough;
It’s the biggest little word you can say,
By the way.
It’s sympathy, sincerity,
Its charity, the main variety
Of everything happiness is made of.
It was this kind of love that brought our Lord to this earth as a servant and that led Him to the cross, the tomb and then the victorious resurrection, all for us! How can we do less than love Him with our heart, soul and mind and in His name love our neighbor as ourselves!
Love begets love--and grows with the gving!