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Examine Scripture

Mark 12:28-31

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The Greatest Commandments

Of the Ten Commandments, which is the greatest?

One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”

Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  -Mark 12:28-31, NAB

The scribe was asking a fair and honest question.  Jesus was teaching some revolutionary ideas about the faith, and he wanted a better understanding of how Jesus saw the Ten Commandments, which dictated how Jews should live.  Christ’s response offered a simple truth that we can still follow today.

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Some may ask why Christ did not choose one of the Ten Commandments for His answer.  Well, He did.  Actually, His answer included all of the Ten Commandments.  He summed up the entire Ten Commandments in these greatest commandments.

How did the entire Ten Commandments get summed up by Christ?  Simple.  First, He tells us to love our God with all of our heart – this sums up commandments 1 through 3.  Next, He tells us to love our neighbor – this sums up commandments 4-10.  So, love God and love your neighbor, and the rest will follow.

The first 3 commandments (you shall have no other Gods, shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, and keep the Sabbath holy) deal with our relationship with God. The last 7 commandments (honor your parents, do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery, and so on) focus on our relationships with others.  None of these could be accomplished without love.  Therefore, if we love God and love our neighbors, we are keeping with each of the Ten Commandments.

Following the two greatest commandments serve as a guide for our lives.  Instead of focusing on our specific actions, as specified by the Ten Commandments, we can focus on loving our God and neighbors.  WIth love in our hearts, the rest will fall into place.

Want to learn more about the Ten Commandments, including how the Catholic Ten Commandments differ from the Protestant view, see Waking Up Catholic’s page on the Ten Commandments.

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