Simple Yet Hard

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:34-40)

Scripture Study

22:35 [A scholar of the law]: meaning “scribe.” Although this reading is supported by the vast majority of textual witnesses, it is the only time that the Greek word so translated occurs in Matthew. It is relatively frequent in Luke, and there is reason to think that it may have been added here by a copyist since it occurs in the Lucan parallel (Lk 10:25–28). Tested: the verb is used of attempts of Jesus’ opponents to embarrass him by challenging him to do something they think impossible (Mt 16:1; Mk 8:11; Lk 11:16) or by having him say something that they can use against him (Mt 22:18, 35; Mk 10:2; 12:15).

22:36 For the devout Jew all the commandments were to be kept with equal care, but there is evidence of preoccupation in Jewish sources with the question put to Jesus.

22:37–38 Cf. Dt 6:5. Matthew omits the first part of Mark’s fuller quotation (Mk 12:29; Dt 6:4–5), probably because he considered its monotheistic emphasis needless for his church. The love of God must engage the total person (heart, soul, mind).

22:39 Jesus goes beyond the extent of the question put to him and joins to the greatest and the first commandment a second, that of love of neighbor, Lv 19:18; see note on Mt 19:18–19. This combination of the two commandments may already have been made in Judaism.

22:40 The double commandment is the source from which the whole law and the prophets are derived.

Scripture Reflection

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39.

A famous violinist was being interviewed about a piece of music she was going to be playing and noted the beauty in its simplicity, yet she said it was a hard piece to play. The reporter asked her what made something so simple so challenging. The violinist replied, “It’s hard to do what is so simple because simple does not mean it is easy.”

We can take this thought into today’s verse. A person who genuinely loves God should thereby also love their neighbor. But if that were true, wouldn’t the entire world be different? What then makes this simple commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” so difficult?

One thing that is also true, “you can’t give away what you don’t have.” In other words, if you don’t love yourself; if you don’t truly believe you are loved by God; then it is not easy to love your neighbor because you don’t love yourself.

Both love of others and love of self are based on love of God. From all this we can deduce that self-love of the right kind, based on God’s love for man, necessarily involves forgetting oneself in order to love God and our neighbor for God.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.