One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.” (Mark 12:28-34)
Some of the chief priests, teachers of the law and elders had come to challenge Jesus and pick holes in His teaching by arguing about doctrines and terminology. But one teacher of the law came along on his own and heard the others debating with Jesus. He wasn’t there to argue, but to hear and evaluate what Jesus had to say. He wanted to know Jesus’ bottom line, His core theology; then he would make up his mind about Him. When he heard what Jesus had to say, he agreed wholeheartedly.
This teacher understood that the offering God wants from each of us is all of our heart, mind, soul and strength – our whole being. He’s not after half-hearted, double-minded, fragmented and watered-down allegiance. Those are superficial offerings coming from a superficial faith.
A half-hearted faith lays claim to God when it’s convenient, but easily puts Him aside to participate in conversation or activities that don’t honor God. There is little attempt to know God personally by spending time and effort on His Word and in prayer.
A double-minded faith wavers between doubt and belief, never quite sure of heaven but eager to avoid hell. This is a faith easily derailed by adversity, and slow to give God credit for answered prayers. Because there is little assurance, it is easily discouraged. The witness of this kind of faith to others is bland at best and detrimental at worst.
A fragmented soul is the split personality of a faith that puts self, others and/or things in the place that belongs solely to God. This kind of faith believes that allowing God into the mix of what it worships is all that’s required. It puts God on the same level as its idols, fragmenting its worship into many pieces. This kind of piecemeal faith is easily shattered.
A diluted faith is as insipid as a mixture of pop and water. This is a faith weakened by watering down the truth to accommodate the world’s standards, washing away anything that doesn’t suit its own comfort or self-interest. Sin becomes acceptable, even desirable. This faith hasn’t the strength to persevere, to build character and courage, to stand for God against opposition, to give full allegiance to Him. A diluted faith has no spiritual muscle, no power to be lifted or to lift others above difficult circumstances.
Only by offering our whole selves to God are we able to love our neighbor as ourselves, because only then are we in the kind of relationship with God that we were designed for. Loving God with all our being opens the way for us to love ourselves and others in the way God intends.
The teacher of the law in this passage didn’t allow himself to be swept up in the prevailing tide of opposition to Jesus that engulfed most of his peers. He understood the spirit of the law and chose to be guided by it. He wasn’t interested in power or prestige; he openly praised Jesus and supported Him in front of his colleagues who were trying so hard to discredit Him. He called Jesus “teacher.”
In asking Jesus what was most important and then affirming His answer, this one teacher of the law silenced the criticism of all the other Jewish religious leaders that day. No one dared ask Jesus any more accusing questions. He had dared to stand against the crowd to get at the truth, and to stand with Jesus when he heard the truth. Wholeness of heart, mind, soul and strength silences the enemies of God.