One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
Over the last couple of days we have seen Jesus give some really wise answers to questions he was asked. Noticing this, a scribe decides to ask him a question. Unlike some of the other questions that came his way, I think this one was asked with a genuine desire for understanding, and it must have pleased Jesus. The question was this: Which commandment is the first of all? We need to remember they had 613 commandments, not just the ten we normally think of. So, it was a good question. Jesus answered: Love God with all you got; and love everybody else like you love yourself.
We’ve heard a gazillion sermons on loving God and loving neighbor, but I’m not so sure we have heard too much about loving oneself. So, I’m gonna talk about this today, and I really want us to reflect deeply on it. The reason for this is because, as a general rule, we don’t love ourselves. When we look at ourselves we see somebody who is ugly, or stupid, or worthless, or clumsy, or something equally denigrating. A major contributing factor to this opinion we have are because of things people have said: people close to us, like our parents, our teachers, our spouses; even our children.
Now, remember what we learned yesterday? We get things wrong because we don’t know the scriptures. This includes the opinion we have of ourselves. So, what does Scripture say? Well, for one thing, it says we are made the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26). We sometimes think we need to be a certain type of person. We gotta be so tall, so fair, so intelligent. So, if we don’t measure up to these standards that the world has set, we think terribly of ourselves. But don’t worry; you’re in good company, because Moses — know him? — he also though badly of himself.
When God told him to go to Pharaoh, Moses made excuse after excuse, before finally saying: “But I’m not very eloquent; I am slow of speech and tongue.” And God responded: “Oye. Who gave you your mouth? Me, no? Are you saying I messed up with you?” Well, he didn’t quite use these words, but that’s pretty much what he said. Check it out; it’s Exodus 4:10-11. So, when we put ourselves down, we put God down, essentially saying he goofed up with us. Do you really think God made a mistake with you?
Let us learn something from David, who declared to God, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14). Now, David was a pretty messed up guy, but instead of debasing himself, he thanked God for making him how he was, and he ended up as quite an awesome guy. I can assure you the same thing will happen to us. So, the next time you look at yourself in the mirror, thank God for making you how you are, rejoicing in how uniquely he has put you together. There is truly nobody like you in the entire universe.
And then, how can you not love yourself?