Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 22:39
“The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39
This particular verse is one of the two more important verses that speaks to what our Christian walk is to be like. The first, of course, is two verses before the focus verse which says, “And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37. Jesus declared this the great and foremost commandment. God is to be our greatest love. We are to love Him with everything we have. With all our heart, and soul, and mind, and as Mark adds, all our strength. With everything that is in us, our very breath and understanding, along with all the strength we have. This being the greatest and foremost commandment.
Then we see our focus verse, “The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39. The first thing we need to understand is, who is our neighbor? According to the Jews of that day, it was any member of the Hebrew nation and/or commonwealth. However, Jesus had a much broader perspective, which was any person irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live, or we chance to meet or cross paths with. We shall use the perspective of Jesus throughout this post.
So, how do we choose to be treated? Regarding myself, with respect and tolerance; understanding that I am not perfect. I also want to be helped when necessary and always love the opportunity to get to know people I currently do not. This, of course, is not a perfect picture of what is intended. There is much more. Let’s start with the commandments given on Mt. Sinai that deal with our neighbors and see what if says. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:12-17. This is a pretty good list of behaviors that do not show love to our neighbors. Murder, adultery, lying, stealing, etc are not activities done to those we love.
Matthew records in His gospel a more specific and helpful way of declaring this idea. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12. Now, of course we do not want to be lied to, killed or cheated on. However, let me ask the following questions for us to think about.
- Do we want to be ridiculed?
- Do we want to be hurt, either physically, mentally or emotionally?
- Do we want to be falsely accused of a wrong?
- Do we want to be assumed of doing something we have not?
- Do we want to be ignored by people we care about?
- Do we want to be encouraged when we are hurting or mourning?
- Do we want to have others rejoice with us when something good happens or to be resented because it was not them?
- Do we want someone to care for us when we are injured or sick?
- And if we were unsaved, would we want someone to share the gospel with us so that we could accept the salvation offered to us?
Think about these questions, and others you may come up with. How we answer them is what we should or should not do for others. If you do not wish to be ridiculed, do not ridicule others. If you are hurting and want someone to be there with you, be there for those who are hurting. If someone is hungry but does not have means of getting food, provide them with it. This is what love for our neighbors is all about, and more. Do good to everyone even though they never have or possibly never will do it for us. If they are our enemies or they hate us, we should love them anyway. “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44. Regarding them, who knows what impact we can have on them. They could become our friend, and we may also, if they are unsaved, lead them to Christ.
Lastly, when we do this, we imitate what Christ did for us. We could not pay the penalty for our own sins. So, Christ paid it for us. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Romans 5:6-9. This is true and pure love, and when we do to others those things, we know to be good and desire to be done for us, then we are displaying this type of love to them.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.