Several years ago, I heard “for most people, the daily choices are not between ‘bad and ‘good,’ but choices between various options that may all be ‘good.’” Underlying these choices is the question – “How to spend limited resources of time, energy, and money in ways that are life-giving?” The current deliberations over the spending bill in the US Congress reflect urgency and the difficulty inherent in answering collectively this question.
Religious leaders at the time of Jesus faced the same quandary and similar heated arguments. Jesus was often drawn into their debates. In Mark’s gospel, a scribe (a legal expert) comes to him with the question – “Which commandment is the first of all?” Given the various verbal “traps” that have been set for Jesus, this seems to be a prelude to confrontation. But here the question is sincere, not rhetorical. With so many genuinely important and “good” directives, “Which commandment is the first of all?”
Jesus responds, “love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as you would yourself.” This not only satisfies the scribe but prompts him to comment that what Jesus has said “is much more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Often called the Great Commandment, these words “love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as you would yourself” are so familiar we may miss the incredible challenge inherent within them; the radical call to action, faithfulness, inclusion, and commitment to something bigger than self. Love of God and love of neighbor moves us away from being at the center of our choices. Our comfort, pleasure, or rights are important, but not preeminent.
We saw examples of this kind of love demonstrated in the sacrifices and care for the most vulnerable made during the pandemic. These efforts were made by frontline workers and by ordinary people wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. Each of those efforts were examples of love for our neighbor in action.
Pandemic life illustrated the importance of faith and connection to, and love for, our neighbors. The pandemic also highlighted loneliness, inequities, and profound need in our world. Our eyes have been opened in new ways. As Lorraine Warner observed in her letter to each of you, “there is so much more to be done.” Work that is core to who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.
That “all-in” kind of love for God and agape love for your neighbor is foundational to choices about financial giving. Financial gifts allow your church to tend to a host of needs including loneliness, inequity, and hurt in our world. In the transition to post pandemic life, we are more aware than ever of the choices we have before us.
Friends, let’s put our love into action!
How do the commandments to “love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as you would yourself” impact your stewardship choices?
In what ways is God calling you to care for your neighbor and your community?