Sunday, February 9, 2014

Affnity 3: The Greatest Commandment

We have ten finger, ten toes and The Ten Commandments:

  1. One God
  2. No Idolatry
  3. Keep His Name Holy
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day
  5. Honor Father and Mother
  6. Don’t Kill
  7. Don’t Commit Adultery
  8. Don’t Steel
  9. Don’t Lie
  10. Don’t Covet

When challenged by the Pharisees to name the greatest commandment, “Jesus said unto [the Pharisee], Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” (Matthew 22:37-40). When asked, God boiled it all down to Love. We are to love God and others as much as we love ourselves.

First John gives us another picture of the struggle our souls face against sin, also tying it to love, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever,” (I John 2:15-17). John says, ‘all that is in the World,’ are three temptations: Lust, Greed and Pride.

How could there be only three temptations in this world? In the passage where Jesus is tempted, have you ever noticed he was only tempted three times? God in the flesh tempted by the Devil himself. I’d expect His temptation to be the hardest ones a man could face. For the longest time, however, I didn’t understand them. They seemed anti-climactic. First of all – only three temptations? And, to be honest, at first blush, they don’t look too exciting. Only in the context of First John do they start to make sense.

The Devil tempts Christ in three ways. Saint John tells us why, “All that is in the world.” Jesus faces lust, greed and pride in a way only the Creator of Heaven and Earth could. “And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread,” (Matthew 4:3). This is tempting the Lord to feed his appetite. Let’s call that one lust. In Jesus’ second temptation . . . “ . . . the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone,” (Matthew 4:5-6). Here the Lord is asked to prove who he is. This is clearly a temptation of pride. Lastly, “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me,” (Matthew 4:8-9). Here the Lord is tempted to accomplish the Father’s will sooner than ordained, an action of greed. Just as St John tells us, there is nothing more in the world but these three.

When you look at the World the way First John describes it, “all that is in the World,” boils down to three things: Lust, Greed and Pride. Why is that?

Could it be because we were created in the image of God to be a Body, Soul and Spirit. Lust therefore is a function (or de-function) of our Body, Greed a de-function of our Soul and Pride is a de-function of our Spirit. Lust is the satisfaction of bodily wants beyond what God has designed or outside of His perfect timing. Greed is the unbridling of our desires to fulfill every whim of our souls. Pride works on the spirit of man, causing us to exalt ourselves above one another and put ourselves even in front of God himself. 

Let’s take a look at the Ten Commandments again. The first one could be an overarching commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3). The other nine then become groups of three, three to address lust, three for greed and three for pride.

No wonder Jesus tells us the first and greatest commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” We are to so align the affections of our heart, soul and mind (Spirit, Soul and Body) that we no longer chose to sin. When we love God with our bodies, we will not yield to lust. When we put God as our chief of goals, we won’t be greedy. And when we love Him above all else we will not be prideful. One commandment portrays all ten.  By keeping our Spirit, Soul and Body in Love with God and His ways, we’ll be keeping all the law and the prophets.