Googling the question ‘what are your priorities?’ nets some interesting thoughts. (Intriguing to see how language changes. Because of the enormous impact of the tech giant, the very term ‘google’ is now a verb. Fascinating, if you enjoy language-how we get it, and how it changes and morphs through cultural tides.)
So, priorities. Whether or not we are intentional about choosing our life priorities or even aware, from the time our feet hit the floor in the morning, we all make determining choices.
Where do our feet take us? What do we do first? How do we spend our time, money and talent? We order our days based on what we value most: physical health, relationships, pleasure, purpose or meaning, pursuit of education, making a living, self-care or perhaps seeking God’s heart and mind; a choice in any of these directions indicates what we value.
As we look to God’s Word, context is key in reading and understanding a passage; it makes the words on the page come alive. Remember, Mark is recounting the events of the last several days before Jesus would be crucified. On Sunday, the Lord rides a donkey colt down the Mt. of Olives into the Old City to the shouting throngs of people who spread their garments on the ground before him, waving palm branches overhead. On Monday, he angrily clears the Temple of profiteers, saying “My house shall be called a house of prayer.”1 This is the second time in Jesus’ ministry he would forcibly demonstrate the priority he placed on the house of God. On Tuesday—where we find ourselves in Mark chapter 12, Jesus teaches – employing a parable about the tenant farmer that shows the evil of the Jewish leaders. Jesus also engages them in debate, as they look to challenge him, hopefully ensnare and discredit him.
How Jesus answers their next challenge made me sit up and take notice many years ago. **Huh, is it okay to say I really like Jesus’ thoughts here? In my mind, what he communicates is both foundational and formational. Check it out.
“One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.”2
We do not know the man’s name – the one who got it: the most important thing we are to do is to LOVE THE LORD with all our heart, soul, mind and strength…and then, because we love Him, and because through the power of his love in our lives, we are able to love our neighbor as ourselves. And then, well, just do it.
How clarifying, how simplifying! You see, each of us has the same 1440 minutes a day. With intention at the start of each new day, we ought consider how we will love the Lord with our heart, soul, mind and strength, and then commit ourselves to Him, commit the day into His care. Each day. One day at a time. When deciding how we will use our time, money, or talent,
we first think ‘will this honor God who I love?’
Does this thing I am about to do ‘love my neighbor as myself’, or
am I putting myself ahead of God’s best,
and possibly even hurting someone else in the process? hmmm...
Segue ~ I like bowling. Several years ago, I detached my right bicep muscle—imagine, when I bent my arm at the elbow, made a fist and squeezed my arm, the bicep pathetically fell inward. It was a freak show. Though I had surgery to repair it, I now welcome the bowling alley bumpers (that little children use) to hurl a ball toward the 10 pins. (see above) ~A great picture of how this teaching of Jesus forms our priorities!
On the one hand, LOVE THE LORD WITH ALL MY HEART, SOUL, MIND AND STRENGTH—everything I’ve got.
On the other, LOVE MY NEIGHBOR AS MYSELF.
Who is your neighbor, Mr. Rodgers? The person God has put next to you—your mate, your child, your work colleague, the lady behind you in the grocery store checkout line, or perhaps literally, the person who lives next door to you.
O, this does indeed energize how we enter a new day!
A prayer: Father, I want to love you with all that is in me. And with that same love, see the person next to me so that I can love them well. And Lord, I noticed you did not tell me to love myself—I guess that’s because that is who I naturally love the most—way too much. So, help me put myself in line after You and ‘my neighbor’. Amen.
Be blessed with this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RL9byH93aI
Simplified living trusting Jesus,
following Jesus in the gospel of Mark, #40
1 – Mark 11.17
2 – Mark 12.28-34