Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
Matthew 22:37 is what is commonly known today as the Great Commandment or the greatest commandment. Contextually, when a Pharisee, who’s an expert in the law, asked Jesus, “which is the greatest commandment in the law”, this verse was his answer. We all know this verse well, it’s often quoted and referenced even in our daily speech and prayers, even without us intending to. The Pharisees and the Jews knew this commandment well too, it was more or less quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 – Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. The only difference is in the last word, strength/might becomes mind. In this study, we will examine the implications of the great commandment and observe the difference between might and mind.
all your heart – have you heard of how some people would sometimes say that their hearts are big enough for more than one person? Metaphorically, I think we can use that perspective to apply here. Are we able to love God with all our hearts, and not just a portion of it? I don’t know how you measure the size of your heart to see whether it can fit more than one person or object, but if you give your entire heart for God’s cause, there would naturally not be space for other things. Not that you don’t love others, or you don’t care for them – but you now love entirely with God’s love, and you care with God’s compassion.
all your soul – have you heard of how some people would sometimes say that they are willing to sell their soul to the devil in exchange for a certain thing? It’s the ultimate sacrifice – a sacrifice that weighs even greater than the sacrifice of life. We’re not talking about selling our souls to God, of course, though we’re perhaps talking about giving our entire lives to him. Our souls. The very essence of our beings, the very existence of ourselves.
all your mind – have you heard of how some people would sometimes exclaim ‘have you lost your mind?’ as a reaction to others who do things that seem out of character, against their own wills or against the wills and expectations of others? Are you willing to ‘lose your mind’ to God? Act on God’s will and not your own; do God’s work which society may frown upon. Pursue God’s intellect and not the world’s?
all – What is the opposite of all? Some may say nothing – zilch; some may say one, singular, as a contrast to many, all. How many parts can we split our hearts into? How many sections can we cut our souls into? How many aspects can we categorize our minds into? Probably too many to count. But the greatest commandment is actually very simple. We don’t have to think about so much. We just need to put our all. We just need one whole heart, one whole soul, one whole mind. We put in our all for one thing – and that’s God. We don’t put in all our efforts (might) for many things. No, it’s really just one thing, and every other thought and action should be rooted in this one thing.
might – this verse is not much altered from where it was referred from, Deu 6:5 – save for the word might. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul – this phrase is actually commonly found in Deuteronomy and the rest of the Old Testament Bible. The Great Commandment was also recorded in the other gospel books, though in the book of Mark, the verse includes heart, soul, might and mind. I don’t know Hebrew or Greek, and I think there are quite a number of other verses that we can further analyse ‘might’ in this context, however, I think that it is important to note that even if it is not recorded in the book of Matthew, other gospel books have some mention of it when recounting the incident that led the Pharisee’s question of which commandment is the greatest. Although might is excluded in this verse, it certainly doesn’t mean that it is unimportant.
Why would the Pharisees ask Jesus such a question in the first place? Did they truly want to learn from Jesus, or even have an intellectual discussion with the man whom they hated? In all likelihood, they wanted to bait or trap Jesus by asking such a sensitive and difficult question. With one wrong word, they would be able to catch hold of the weakness of Jesus. But Christ has far greater intellect than we can imagine. Yet when Jesus answered him with this verse, the Pharisees backed down. They couldn’t find fault with him through such a trick question. Because even they know the importance of this verse. Even they understood the importance of loving God, fully, completely, totally.
The crux of this verse is actually love, which I did not discuss. I’m embarrassed – whoever talks about the Greatest Commandment but doesn’t discuss love must be blind. Whether it is with all your heart or all your mind or all your soul or all your might, or preferably all – I’d like to think that if you have one of the 4, the other three will come running along – it’s a bit challenging to give all your heart but not all your mind. It’s hard to do any of the 4 if you don’t already have one. But once you achieve one, I’d like to think that the other four come along too. And all these 4 come together for the basis of our love towards God, which is necessary for us to love our neighbours, which is pretty much part two to the great commandment.