The commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5, repeated in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and called the greatest commandment by Jesus, is followed by words that emphasize the commandment’s prominence: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on your doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
With this transcendent language from Deuteronomy plus Jesus’ assertion in Matthew 22:40 that “all the Law and the Prophets” are dependent on the greatest commandment, what else do we need to conclude that the greatest commandment is the most important principle in scripture? Well, Deuteronomy 6:5-9 highlights the ten commandments as well as the greatest commandment. In addition, John’s gospel doesn’t contain a reference to the greatest commandment. Rather, it says that if we love God, we will keep his commandments. (John 14:15; 14:21; 14:23-24; 15:10; 15:12-14) Since there are a whole lot of commandments in scripture, perhaps I should reconsider the question of whether there is one most important principle.
Rather than looking for the most important principle in scripture, I should search for commandments and teachings that lead us to our deepest relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Without diminishing any commandment or teaching, there are a few that, for me, help turn life’s journey into something spiritual.
The greatest commandment is linked by Jesus to the second greatest: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What Jesus actually says in Matthew 22:40 is: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” In Mark 12:31, Jesus says: “There is no commandment greater than these.” Tomorrow, we’ll consider the second greatest commandment.