It Just Takes Two
“All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:40)
Six-hundred-thirteen. Remember that number. According to Jewish tradition, that’s how many laws were officially on the books from when God handed the Law down to Moses.
I don’t know how hard most Israelites tried to keep these laws, but there were certainly some groups—the Pharisees and Sadducees come to mind—who were quite serious about it to the point of legalism. But could anyone really keep, or even remember, all 613 laws perfectly? Of course not.
So why didn’t God’s people just worry about the Ten Commandments? That seems like a much easier list to remember and keep. It’s even suitable for framing and hanging in the family room. In fact, God thought these ten were important enough to write them in stone. Only, I can hear the legalists asking, “Just what exactly does God mean by ‘Honor your father and mother’?” Meanwhile, others might feel good about themselves because they had never actually killed someone.
When I was a boy, my younger brothers and sisters would occasionally annoy me big-time, and I would yell, “I’m going to kill you for doing that!” My parents understandably took such language quite seriously and reprimanded me accordingly. Of course, I wasn’t really going to kill them, but my parents knew that in my heart I had a hateful attitude toward my siblings, which would not serve me well if I continued down this path. So they worked with me to remove this harsh response from my vocabulary and, more importantly, soften my heart toward my fellow family members. I understood this lesson even better when I became a parent and my children (with their own sinful natures) would do something similar.
To my simple mind, ten commandments are better than 613. But are there one or two guiding principles that could make God’s Law even easier to comprehend? Jesus answered this question succinctly when He was asked, “Which command in the law is the greatest?” His answer is recorded in Matthew 22:34-40. Jesus boiled the entire Law down to two commandments:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
If you really think about the Ten Commandments, it all becomes so obvious. The first four commandments are all about loving God; the last six are all about loving our neighbors. Let’s go to Exodus 20 and see how they are nicely divided into these two easy-to-remember principles.
“Love God” is a nice, memorable summary of:
- You shall have no other gods before me.
- You shall not make an idol and worship it.
- You shall not take My name in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.
And “Love your neighbor” is a nice, memorable summary of:
- Honor your father and mother.
- You shall not kill.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not lie.
- You shall not covet.
I love how Jesus made it all so plain and simple.
Dear Father in Heaven,
My mind is weak, and I don’t think I could remember 613 laws even if I tried really hard. And although I’m sure I could memorize the Ten Commandments, my heart doesn’t go there often enough. But when I learned that You boiled it all down to two easy-to-remember laws, I smiled. I do want to fall in love with You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And this makes me want to love my neighbor as myself. May it be so in my life.
In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!
Davis is the president of Apologia Educational Ministries, the #1 publisher of Creation-based science and Bible curriculum. He is the author of five illustrated children’s books designed to help parents instill a biblical worldview in the hearts and minds of their preschoolers. He believes that if there was ever a time to homeschool, it is now! You can hear more of what he has to say at the Let’s Talk Homeschool Podcast.
© 2021 Davis Carman