Thou shalt love thy neighbor - The love of our neighbor springs from the love of God as its source; is found in the love of God as its principle, pattern, and end; and the love of God is found in the love of our neighbor, as its effect, representation, and infallible mark. This love of our neighbor is a love of equity, charity, succor, and benevolence. We owe to our neighbor what we have a right to expect from him - "Do unto all men as ye would they should do unto you," is a positive command of our blessed Savior. By this rule, therefore, we should speak, think, and write, concerning every soul of man: - put the best construction upon all the words and actions of our neighbor that they can possibly bear. By this rule we are taught to bear with, love, and forgive him; to rejoice in his felicity, mourn in his adversity, desire and delight in his prosperity, and promote it to the utmost of our power: instruct his ignorance, help him in his weakness, and risk even our life for his sake, and for the public good. In a word, we must do every thing in our power, through all the possible varieties of circumstances, for our neighbors, which we would wish them to do for us, were our situations reversed.
This is the religion of Jesus! How happy would Society be, were these two plain, rational precepts properly observed! Love Me, and love thy Fellows! Be unutterably happy in me, and be in perfect peace, unanimity, and love, among yourselves. Great fountain and dispenser of love! fill thy creation with this sacred principle, for his sake who died for the salvation of mankind!
On the nature of self-love, see Matthew 19:19.
Jesus converses with a Pharisee respecting the law - See also Mark 12:28-34.
The Pharisees were gathered together - That is, either to rejoice that their great rivals, the Sadducees, had been so completely silenced, or to lay a new plan for ensnaring him, or perhaps both. They would rejoice that the Sadducees had been confounded, but they would not be the less desirous to involve Jesus in difficulty. They therefore endeavored, probably, to find the most difficult question in dispute among themselves, and proposed it to him to perplex him.
A lawyer - This does nor mean one that “practiced” law, as among us, but one learned or skilled in the law of Moses.
Mark calls him “one of the scribes.” This means the same thing. The scribes were men of learning - particularly men skilled in the law of Moses. This lawyer had heard Jesus reasoning with the Sadducees, and perceived that he had put them to silence. He was evidently supposed by the Pharisees to be better qualified to hold a debate with him than the Sadducees were, and they had therefore put him forward for that purpose. This man was probably of a candid turn of mind; perhaps willing to know the truth, and not entering very fully into their malicious intentions, but acting as their agent, Mark 12:34.
Tempting him - Trying him. Proposing a question to test his knowledge of the law.
Which is the great commandment? - That is, the “greatest” commandment, or the one most important.
The Jews are said to have divided the law into “greater and smaller” commandments. Which was of the greatest importance they had not determined. Some held that it was the law respecting sacrifice; others, that respecting circumcision; others, that pertaining to washings and purifying, etc.
The law - The word “law” has a great variety of significations; it means, commonly, in the Bible, as it does here, “the law given by Moses,” recorded in the first five books of the Bible.
Jesus said unto him - Mark says that he introduced this by referring to the doctrine of the unity of God “Hear, O Israel! the Lord thy God is one Lord” - taken from Deuteronomy 6:4. This was said, probably, because all true obedience depends on the correct knowledge of God. None can keep his commandments who are not acquainted with his nature, his perfections, and his right to command,
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart - The meaning of this is, thou shalt love him with all thy faculties or powers. Thou shalt love him supremely, more than all other beings and things, and with all the ardor possible. To love him with all the heart is to fix the affections supremely on him, more strongly than on anything else, and to be willing to give up all that we hold dear at his command,
With all thy soul - Or, with all thy “life.” This means, to be willing to give up the life to him, and to devote it all to his service; to live to him, and to be willing to die at his command,
With all thy mind - To submit the “intellect” to his will. To love his law and gospel more than we do the decisions of our own minds. To be willing to submit all our faculties to his teaching and guidance, and to devote to him all our intellectual attainments and all the results of our intellectual efforts.
“With all thy strength” (Mark). With all the faculties of soul and body. To labor and toil for his glory, and to make that the great object of all our efforts.
This the first tend great commandment - This commandment is found in Deuteronomy 6:5. It is the “first” and greatest of all; first, not in “order of time,” but of “importance; greatest” in dignity, in excellence, in extent, and duration. It is the fountain of all others. All beings are to be loved according to their excellence. As God is the most excellent and glorious of all beings, he is to be loved supremely. If he is loved aright, then our affections will be directed toward all created objects in a right manner.
The second is like unto it - Leviticus 19:18. That is, it resembles it in importance, dignity, purity, and usefulness. This had not been asked by the lawyer, but Jesus took occasion to acquaint him with the substance of the whole law. For its meaning, see the notes at Matthew 19:19. Compare Romans 13:9. Mark adds, “there is none other commandment greater than these.” None respecting circumcision or sacrifice is greater. They are the fountain of all.
On these two commandments hang - That is, these comprehend the substance of what Moses in the law and what the prophets have spoken.
What they have said has been to endeavor to win people to love God and to love each other. Love to God and man comprehends the whole of religion, and to produce this has been the design of Moses, the prophets, the Saviour, and the apostles.
Mark Mark 12:32-34 adds that the scribe said, “Well, Master, thou hast said the truth;” and that he assented to what Jesus had said, and admitted that to love God and man in this manner was more than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices; that is, was of more value or importance. Jesus, in reply, told him that he was “not far from the kingdom of heaven;” in other words, by his reply he had shown that he was almost prepared to receive the doctrines of the gospel. He had evinced such an acquaintance with the law as to prove that he was nearly prepared to receive the teachings of Jesus. See the notes at Matthew 3:2.
Mark and Luke say that this had such an effect that no man after that durst ask him any question, Luke 20:40; Mark 12:34. This does not mean that none of his disciples durst ask him any question, but none of the Jews. He had confounded all their sects - the Herodians Matthew 22:15-22; the Sadducees Matthew 22:23-33; and, last, the Pharisees Matthew 22:34-40. Finding themselves unable to confound him, everyone gave up the attempt at last.
The Samaritan had fulfilled the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” thus showing that he was more righteous than those by whom he was denounced. Risking his own life, he had treated the wounded man as his brother. This Samaritan represents Christ. Our Saviour manifested for us a love that the love of man can never equal. When we were bruised and dying, He had pity upon us. He did not pass us by on the other side, and leave us, helpless and hopeless, to perish. He did not remain in His holy, happy home, where He was beloved by all the heavenly host. He beheld our sore need, He undertook our case, and identified His interests with those of humanity. He died to save His enemies. He prayed for His murderers. Pointing to His own example, He says to His followers, “These things I command you, that ye love one another”; “as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 15:17; 13:34. COL 381.1
The priest and the Levite had been for worship to the temple whose service was appointed by God Himself. To participate in that service was a great and exalted privilege, and the priest and Levite felt that having been thus honored, it was beneath them to minister to an unknown sufferer by the wayside. Thus they neglected the special opportunity which God had offered them as His agents to bless a fellow being. COL 382.1
Many today are making a similar mistake. They separate their duties into two distinct classes. The one class is made up of great things, to be regulated by the law of God; the other class is made up of so-called little things, in which the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” is ignored. This sphere of work is left to caprice, subject to inclination or impulse. Thus the character is marred, and the religion of Christ misrepresented. COL 382.2Read in context »
On the assurance of the love of God toward us, Jesus enjoins love to one another, in one comprehensive principle covering all the relations of human fellowship. MB 134.1
The Jews had been concerned about what they should receive; the burden of their anxiety was to secure what they thought their due of power and respect and service. But Christ teaches that our anxiety should not be, How much are we to receive? but, How much can we give? The standard of our obligation to others is found in what we ourselves would regard as their obligation to us. MB 134.2Read in context »
The Twofold Reform of Isaiah 58—The work specified in these words [Isaiah 58] is the work God requires His people to do. It is a work of God's own appointment. With the work of advocating the commandments of God and repairing the breach that has been made in the law of God, we are to mingle compassion for suffering humanity. We are to show supreme love to God; we are to exalt His memorial, which has been trodden down by unholy feet; and with this we are to manifest mercy, benevolence, and the tenderest pity for the fallen race. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” As a people we must take hold of this work. Love revealed for suffering humanity gives significance and power to the truth.—Special Testimonies, Series A 10:3, 4. WM 32.1
A True Interpretation of the Gospel—It is only by an unselfish interest in those in need of help that we can give a practical demonstration of the truths of the gospel. “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” WM 32.2
Much more than mere sermonizing is included in preaching the gospel. The ignorant are to be enlightened; the discouraged are to be uplifted; the sick are to be healed. The human voice is to act its part in God's work. Words of tenderness, sympathy, and love are to witness to the truth. Earnest, heartfelt prayers are to bring the angels near.... WM 32.3Read in context »
“If thou wilt enter into life,” He added, “keep the commandments.” The character of God is expressed in His law; and in order for you to be in harmony with God, the principles of His law must be the spring of your every action. COL 391.1
Christ does not lessen the claims of the law. In unmistakable language He presents obedience to it as the condition of eternal life—the same condition that was required of Adam before his fall. The Lord expects no less of the soul now than He expected of man in Paradise, perfect obedience, unblemished righteousness. The requirement under the covenant of grace is just as broad as the requirement made in Eden—harmony with God's law, which is holy, just, and good. COL 391.2
To the words, “Keep the commandments,” the young man answered, “Which?” He supposed that some ceremonial precept was meant, but Christ was speaking of the law given from Sinai. He mentioned several commandments from the second table of the Decalogue, then summed them all up in the precept, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” COL 391.3
The young man answered without hesitation, “All these things have I kept from my youth up; what lack I yet?” His conception of the law was external and superficial. Judged by a human standard, he had preserved an unblemished character. To a great degree his outward life had been free from guilt; he verily thought that his obedience had been without a flaw. Yet he had a secret fear that all was not right between his soul and God. This prompted the question, “What lack I yet?” COL 391.4
“If thou wilt be perfect,” Christ said, “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” COL 391.5Read in context »