Bible Readings and Devotion for August 3, 2020
Here are the references for the readings. Please look these up in your print Bible, your smartphone app Bible, or your online Bible:
Devotion for August 3, 2020
By Pastor David Tinker
“I love God, I just can’t stand other people.”
“It is just Jesus and me.”
These statements, and others of similar nature, may seem fine on the surface, but they end up missing something significant. Each of these misses the point which our Lord makes in today’s reading from Mark 12.
In this passage our Lord Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment of God. He gives a two-part answer. He, in essence, notes that there are really two greatest commandments, and that these two are linked. In response to the mercy, forgiveness, and love of God, we are called upon both to love God and to love our neighbor. Jesus pulls these together and notes, “There is no other commandment greater than these.”
He does note that the first priority is to love God. This makes sense, since God is to be our core priority. When we look at the Ten Commandments, we observe that these begin with the three commandments regarding our relationship with God.
1 – You shall have no other gods.
2 – You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.
3 – Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
The Lord does not drop things at that point, and tell us, “Well, there are some other things which would be nice to do, but you can just get around to those later. Let me know if you want to know those.” Rather the Lord keeps it going by instructing the people, and eventually us, how to show love and care for our neighbor, for those others whom we encounter in this life.
4 – Honor your father and your mother.
5 – You shall not murder.
6 – You shall not commit adultery.
7 – You shall not steal.
8 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9 – You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
10 – You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The foundation of all of these is the First Commandment, which is to have no other gods. As we respond to God’s love we strive to honor him with all of these. We show our love for God by loving both God and neighbor. We show our love for neighbor by having our lives aligned with God and his ways. Both go hand in hand. Both are necessary to give a godly and faithful response to what God has first done for us in Jesus Christ.
Some have noted to me over the decades that they want to get their relationship with God right before they work on the love for neighbor. This may sound like a wonderful idea, but it will ultimately prevent us from living God’s way. Due to our sin, we will never have our relationship with God in perfect order. Instead, we get to strive to love God and neighbor at the same time, and this will honor both the spirit and the letter of the Commandments. It will also help us have a more well-rounded life of faith.
Some images I have noted before about this duel focus is this:
1 – we live our lives as followers of Jesus with one hand up in praise of God and one hand out to others in caring service.
2 – The cross is a powerful reminder of this as well. The cross has two parts. Without both parts it is no longer a cross. The vertical bar of the cross reminds us to love God. The horizontal bar of the cross reminds us to love others.
St. John draws this all together with what he says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” God has acted for us, and we get to respond with love for both God and neighbor.
A prayer of Martin Luther
Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it. I am weak in the faith; strengthen me. I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor. I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you. In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have. I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor. I am a sinner; you are upright. With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness. Therefore I will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give. Amen
Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Copyright © 2020 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved.