The Pharisees condescendingly asked Jesus which command was the greatest. Jesus silenced them in an already silenced crowd by saying that there were two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength; and the second one like it, love your neighbor as yourself. This, Jesus explained, summarized the entire Old Testament from Moses’s writings through the last of the prophets.
The religious teachers who thought to make Jesus look foolish with their academia didn’t know how to respond because they didn’t understand the Scriptures enough to see them for what they were. They missed the whole point and couldn’t the forest for the trees. Samuel told Saul that God wanted obedience more than ritual sacrifice. The Psalmist and Hosea taught the same thing: Old Testament Law is for our benefit; God does not delight in the rules themselves. God wants us to live and prosper. But, it all begins with loving Him the most and consequentially loving His Image, our fellow Man.
The command to love God is not greater than the second, it is “the first and great” command, “the second” is to love our neighbor—not more than ourselves, but just as we love ourselves at the same time. The sequence is the essence and the secret to both: One cannot love God actually without consequentially loving people; one cannot love people without loving God first.
In much the same way, no one can feel love from other people without first feeling loved by God. Spending time with God—thinking about His love for you, your love for Him, your love of being loved by Him—is not time wasted. If you remain there forever then you never were actually there. Time spend loving God, with neither distractions nor actions, will boil up love inside the heart. We can’t love without loving God and we can’t love God and not love.
Lack of love throughout the world continues when second things aren’t second. The Great Commandment, to love God, was first. If you make Jesus’s First Great Commandment your first commandment to follow throughout your life, other needs and pursuits will line up as they get in line behind.
Psalm 51:16, 1 Samuel 15:22, Hosea 6:6, Matthew 22:29-40