April 12th Lenten Devotion

God-Neighbor-Self Love

Shari Jackson Monson

Matthew 22:34-40

The image is far-fetched. A billboard highway sign looming overhead. Significant expense paid. Text concise enough to be read by even the zippiest of passersby. Modern context for an ancient truth. The God, whose character is love, knows our love for God is sincere when we love our neighbors. This was big news. Indeed, the truth of it startles us still.

In the ancient world, Israel’s identity was wrapped up in what scholars of the day considered the greater laws of God. These, most agreed, could be summed up in a practice called the Shema, frequently recited as a prayer, which called the faithful to love the Lord your God with all of one’s heart, and all of one’s soul, and all of one’s mind (Deut. 6:5).

When pressed by a teacher of the law as to what God’s intentions for us might be, Jesus quotes the Shema. But Jesus includes a second [law] as like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’ [Lev. 19:19]. Adding, ‘On these two commandments depend all the Law and Prophets’.

Somehow Israel had relegated this second commandment to a lesser law. Jesus took exception to Israel’s practice and surprised the audience by putting these laws on equal footing. In doing so he demonstrates that God loves Israel’s neighbors as much as God loves Israel.

Action: Look for signs of where God may be inviting you to show love and concern for people you have previously overlooked or bypassed.


Shari Jackson Monson is the interim pastor of John Knox Presbyterian Church in Normandy Park, near Seattle Washington.


©2019 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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