By David M. FreemanWhen a scribe asked Jesus to name the most important commandment, Jesus responded by identifying not only one but two commandments that encapsulate God’s will for mankind. Jesus said,“The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31). Thus God’s commandments can be summarized by a single word manifested in two ways: Love – directed towards God and directed towards people.
Two Commands On Two Stone Tablets
If that scribe were to travel approximately 1400 years back in time to ask the same question of Moses, he would have received the same response. When God spoke to Moses atop Mount Sinai he gave him two tables of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. The first four commandments describe love for God and the final six describe love for people.While there is a clear division identified by the words of Jesus and within the Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments of God remain a united whole. The scriptures continually teach that love for God will manifest itself in love for people. They also teach that true love for other people has its root in true love for God.
In other words, you cannot keep the “first” commandment (love for God) without keeping the “second” (love for neighbor).
John says, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20). If you want to measure the strength of your love for God, you should consider the state of your heart towards the people you interact with each day. Do you love them?The Ten Commandments also form a united whole in their reflection of the holy nature of God. The Law of God is a window into the heart of God as it reveals that which is pleasing to God. Therefore, it is no surprise that the life of Jesus reflects all of the Ten Commandments. As the Son of God he certainly loved his Father. Yet, amazingly enough, he also loved sinful humans! Jesus reflected the whole of God’s nature as his life reflected the whole of God’s Law. How is it with you? Does your life reflect the whole Law of God? Do you say you love God while you fail to love other people? Do you love your neighbor as you love yourself?
Do You Love Your Neighbor?
Honestly consider how well you keep the following commandments:“Honor thy father and thy mother.” Paul tells children to “obey [their] parents in the Lord: for this is right.” He also tells parents (and in particular fathers) to “bring [children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1,4). Each role comes with responsibility. Children are to honor their parents through obedience and parents are to raise their children according to the loving instruction of Christ. The fifth commandment emphasizes the responsibility of children to their parents.The fifth commandment is reflected in the third. Jesus teaches you to pray to God with the words, “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9). If you ought to respect your heavenly Father to the degree that you dare not speak his name in vain, is it right for you to dishonor your earthly father?
Though your earthly father and mother are imperfect sinners, you ought to show respect for God by respecting your parents.
“Thou shalt not kill.” While you may have abstained from physical murder, Jesus teaches that this commandment is often violated apart from the shedding of blood. Murder proceeds from the heart (Matthew 15:19). If you hate someone or slander them you are in danger of the same punishment that could be brought against a murderer (Matthew 5:21-22). The second commandment guarantees that the only legitimate image-bearer of God is a human being. If you take it into your own hands to murder (or even hate) an image-bearer of God, you are indeed committing a terrible sin.“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The Bible clearly teaches that adultery, along with all sexual activity outside of a biblical marriage between a man and a woman, is sin. While adultery most terribly manifests itself through physical acts, Jesus once again teaches that this sin has its origin in the heart. He reveals, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 25:28). God often accuses his people of spiritual adultery as they worship other gods in violation of the first commandment (e.g. Ezekiel 23:37). Similarly, James accuses you of adultery if you set your affections on this world instead of God’s kingdom (James 4:4). These are serious accusations!
Paul teaches that marriage is designed to reflect the relationship between Christ and his church.
Therefore, you should not defile the pure purpose of marriage nor harm other people by yielding to your own selfish lust. “Thou shalt not steal.” Do you seek your own gain at the expense of your neighbor? Do you seek that which is not rightfully yours through deceit or by force? Why would you steal, when God has promised to provide for your daily needs? (Matthew 6:31-32).
Thieves come to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus came to give. He came to give life.
You should follow his loving example and seek to give rather than take. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28).“Thou shalt not bear false witness.” God places a high premium on telling the truth. You may not consider yourself a liar, but do you work ruin with a flattering tongue? (Proverbs 26:28). Do you overly criticize or misrepresent other people? Rather than reflecting the nature of God, such behavior reflects the nature of Satan! He is the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10), and the “father of lies” (John 8:44).
Instead of following the footsteps of Satan you should walk in the way of Jesus. He came to tell the truth (John 8:40).
Jesus does not accuse or misrepresent, but advocates for his brethren before the throne of God. Reflect the nature of Christ in your life. Put away a lying tongue, and speak truth to the benefit of your neighbor. “Thou shalt not covet.” This sinful attitude typically directs itself towards material things such as houses, spouses, servants, cattle, etc. Yet a covetous man never obtains the material satisfaction he desires. When King David brought the wife of Uriah into his home, he also brought the curse of God upon himself (2 Samuel 12:9-12). Though King Ahab murdered Naboth in order to obtain his vineyard, God pronounced that Ahab would soon join Naboth in the grave (1 King 21:18-19). One might think that a wealthy king would never covet another man’s possessions. However, David and Ahab show us that no one is free from the sinful inclination to covet.
Though the symptoms of covetousness are primarily tangible this sin has deeply spiritual roots.
In fact, Paul equates covetousness with the violation of the first commandment! (Colossians 3:5). God promises never to leave you nor forsake you, so you should be content with what you have rather than harbor a covetous attitude (Hebrews 13:5). When Satan tempted Jesus with all that this world has to offer, Jesus revealed that he desired his Father more than anything Satan possessed (Matthew 4:10). You ought likewise to covet after God himself rather than the things God has given to someone else.
The Whole Of God's Holy Nature
It is clear that one cannot separate the final six commandments from the first four. If you say you love God, you must love your neighbor.
If you desire to reflect the whole of God’s holy nature, you must love your neighbor.
If you are tempted to complain about your obligation to love others, perhaps you ought to stop and consider what life would be like if God gave Moses one tablet instead of two and omitted the final six commandments. What would such a law say about the nature of the Lawgiver? Such a God would never have sent his Son into this sinful world. He would demand your love and respect, but his nature would be devoid of love for anyone apart from himself.
The Law reflects the nature of the Lawgiver.
If God did not command you to love your neighbor as yourself, it would indicate his nature contains no such love. However, God did give Moses the final six commandments. He did send his Son into this world because he does love others as he loves himself. So, when God commands you to love others, rejoice rather than complain! Rejoice in showing your love for God through your love for others. Rejoice in reflecting the loving nature of God who loves you as he loves himself.