Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:36-40

This post is inspired by this study plan.

On the Tuesday before his death, Jesus taught this powerful lesson: all the law and all the prophets, meaning everything taught in the scriptures, depend on loving God and loving our neighbor.

This exercise is a personal devotional, helping me think of what I can do to hear Christ. But I had another thought I’d like to share.

Here in America, Democrats and Republicans have been having a debate for some time about the best way to help communities. The most charitable spin on the debate is that it is a question of whether we should help the disadvantaged through public or private institutions. There is some evidence that our more selfish tendencies are overcoming the desire to help others at all.

My plea here is that whatever your political or philosophical approach to this question, please follow Christ’s teaching to love your neighbor. Give service. Volunteer or work for non-profits or local governments. Donate to charities. There are a wide variety of ways to help. Our differing political persuasions shouldn’t prevent us from aiding those less fortunate.

As for the personal devotional, during this time I’ve been trying to spend more time talking to my friends and family. I’ve been calling each of my siblings, which I haven’t done consistently for some time. It’s small, but important. My mother has always set a great example of this – staying in touch with each of her siblings, no matter what is happening in their lives. As a result, I’ve seen how a family can stay together, even when they don’t agree with each others’ choices.

Removing Distractions

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

John 2:13-17

A day late, but this post is prompted by this study plan.

On the Monday before His death, Jesus cleansed the temple. There is some debate about whether the episode mentioned in John was separate than the one mentioned by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I also read this interesting post about whether we should even refer to this as a cleansing. But since this is the shared term for the narrative across Christianity, I’ll be sticking with it.

I found the direction this study plan pointed me to be particularly helpful. As I read, I pondered on the presumed role of those Jesus drove from the temple. The moneychangers and animal sellers were performing a necessary service. Jews came from many different lands to worship at Passover. It would have been difficult and expensive to travel with the required sacrificial animal. And they needed to exchange money to obtain the local currency. The animal sellers and money changers were providing a necessary service!

But that which is necessary can still be a distraction from the most essential. I need to eat, but occasionally I give up meals for a variety of good reasons – to lose a little weight, for medical tests, and, most relevantly, to develop myself spiritually. I need to work to provide for my family, but I don’t work one day a week so that I can recharge and devote my thoughts for a whole day to a higher cause.

I decided to make a small sacrifice to avoid distraction this week. I’ve been enjoying a Lego mobile game. In general I hate mobile games (except well done board game adaptations). But this one hit the right spot for me.

After this study, however, I decided to give up the game for a while. I’m not certain how long. At least a week, maybe longer. I’ll devote that time more scripture study, more writing, and more contact with others. What distractions might you give up?