Love in Action (Matthew 22:34-40)
Jesus had just silenced the Sadducees. The Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection had tried to trick Jesus by asking a question about the resurrection. Jesus replied by referring to God as the God of the living. In so doing, Jesus silenced the Sadducees. The Greek word for “to silence” comes from the Greek word which means “to muzzle.” The Sadducees could say nothing in response to Jesus.
The Pharisees gathered to attempt tricking Jesus. Jesus’s popularity was a threat to the Pharisees. They apparently feared that Jesus would cause a revolt against Rome, and they would lose their power as the ruling body of the Sanhedrin.
A lawyer stepped forward to test Jesus. This lawyer would have been one well-versed in the Hebrew Scriptures. The lawyer stepped forward to test Jesus—he hoped that Jesus would make a mistake and look like a fool.
The lawyer asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment. The Jewish law contained over 600 laws. The Pharisees knew that no one could keep these laws perfectly. Therefore, they debated amongst themselves as to which law must be kept above the others—that one law could be kept and a person could fulfill the law by keeping that one command, so they thought. Some believed that keeping the Sabbath was the most important, and others said keeping the animal sacrifices was the most important.
Love for God, vv 37-38
Our duty to God is to love him with our whole heart, whole soul, and whole mind. Although some distinction can be made between heart, soul, and mind, Jesus probably intended this to stand for our entire being.
We are to love God with our entire being, not half-heartedly. We live in a society where we do many things half-heartedly. Students often treat schoolwork half-heartedly—they do just enough to keep from flunking. Many employees work half-heartedly—they do just enough work to keep from getting fired.
Jesus tells us not to love God just enough to keep from going to hell, but he expects us to put our whole selves into loving God, to make loving God our entire life. So many Christians serve God half-heartedly—they only come to worship on Sunday mornings, they give just a little bit of their means, they never tell a friend about Jesus, they never visit the hospitals, and they expect to go to heaven. Are you serving God half-heartedly?
How are we to love God? Love is action. If we love God, we will act accordingly.
Loving God means that we place him first in our lives. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33). “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Lk 14:33). We must obey God before we honor family and friends. We must obey God before we honor our hobbies—we must set time aside for God.
Loving God means that we respect God. “Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him” (Ps 33:8). We must respect God in worship. We need to concentrate on what we sing. We need to be extremely serious while taking the Lord’s Supper.
Loving God means that we obey God. Jesus told his disciples that if they loved him they would do what he asked (Jn 14:15). We must obey God—we dare not treat God’s Word lightly; we need to obey it.
Love to Man, v 39
We are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
If we are to love our neighbor, we must love ourselves. This involves a proper sense of self. Since we are made in God’s image (Gen 1:28), we have real value. This isn’t an egotistical love of self—we are to esteem others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3). Do you have a sense of self?
Let’s think about some of the requirements of this love for others:
This love is to be without hypocrisy (Rom 12:9).
Instead of just pretending to love our neighbor, the love must be genuine. Through our actions, we show how genuine that love is.
This love is to be without partiality (Js 2:8-9).
We cannot love certain folks and despise others. We need a love for all people.
This would condemn racism. We are to do good to all men (Gal 6:10). We cannot single out certain groups to help, while we ignore other groups.
This love is to be a giving love.
Jesus described love for our neighbor (Lk 10:33-35). The Samaritan met the needs of the injured man. If we love folks, we will meet their needs.
We have many opportunities to show love to people around us. We can visit the nursing homes. We can give food and clothing to a family who just lost their home. We can help the recently unemployed find work.
How will you show love this week?
Jesus said all the Law and the Prophets rested upon these two commands. In Jesus’s day, people often spoke of the Old Testament as the “Law and the Prophets.” Jesus is saying these two instructions fulfill the whole of Scripture. You could take the entire Bible and every single command would fit into one of these two categories, love for God or love for man.
In obeying Scripture, we show our love for God and our fellow man. “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). The law is summed up by “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14).
Are you loving God and your neighbor? Are you fulfilling the Law?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.