Many times, during worship service at church and in my private devotional times as well, I become overwhelmed by the presence of God and the knowledge of the reality of his love for me. Inevitably, this results in tears gushing down my face and a cry that can only be described as a full-scale bawl that somehow finds its way out from an otherwise fortified, reserved personality. In response to this overwhelming sense of presence and love, I would wish that I could pluck my beating heart out of my chest and hold it up to God so that he could examine it and see how much reciprocal love for him is encased in it. Simply saying “I love you, Lord,” just doesn’t seem to be good enough.
The Heart of the Matter
Responding to a Scribe in Mark 12:30, Jesus stated that one must love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. The heart is a physical organ and tries as anyone may, the only things to be found upon examination are muscle, tissue, and blood vessels.
‘Heart,’ ‘soul’ and ‘mind,’ we understand that Jesus was using colloquial language to describe the essence of who and what we are, that inner person of spirit, to love God.
But not only is our love for God to be all-encompassing and emanate from the core of what and who we are but it must also take precedence in any effort and energy that we put out.
This mandate of Jesus raises two questions: First, is God the Creator of heaven, earth, and all things, really that “needy?” Secondarily, is it fair for him to expect this of us, given all the other issues and distractions we have to deal with? Although these two questions seem separate and distinct, they both have one and the same answer.
Is God Needy?
To begin with, the Bible is clear that God is self-existent. We first encounter this fact in the revelation of his name to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I Am Who I Am.” The Hebrew relating that he independently exists, he “is.”
He does not need anything from outside of himself to live, survive or thrive, (Psalm 50:12-13); he does not need to breathe because the breath of life is within himself (Genesis 2:7); and, not only does he keep the earth and the world in steady order (Psalm 75:3) but it is he who sustains all of creation (Colossians 1:17) and on whom we are totally and utterly dependent on (Job 12:10). So, is God needy?
The Bible is clear, the answer is an unequivocal no! Why then does he demand such an all-encompassing love and devotion from us and is it fair that he should expect this from us?
Is it fair of God to demand absolute love from us?
To answer this question, we must first realize that in Mark 12:30, in answering the scribe’s question, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:4 which, one can argue, summarizes what some refer to as the vertical commandments, the first four commandments of the “Decalogue” or the Ten Commandments, (Exodus 20:3-17) which address man’s relationship with God.
In the context of Deuteronomy 6, Moses is also summarizing all the commandments, statutes, and rules that God gave him to relay to the Israelites in verse 4. This was of primary importance for them to adhere to when they finally settled Canaan, the land of promise.
They are to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and might, the essence of who they are and with every effort and energy expended. In verses, two and three Moses provides the caveat of why this was so utterly important.
It was not because God is needy and it was not because he is unfair to demand their all-encompassing love but it was for their own good, “that their days may be long” (verse 2), and “that it may go well with them” (verse 3).
Our need to love God
In Psalm 36 after relaying to the reader the inner contemplations of the “wicked” person (verses 1-4), who has no reverence towards God, the psalmist goes on to describe the ultimate calamitous end of such persons (verse 12). But between the bookends of the psalm, he makes a declaration of God, ‘He is the fountain of life and in his light do we see light ’ (verse 9).
He also relates to the reader the blessings that God bestows on those who “know” him (verse 10). Adding Psalm 36 to our equation, we see why it is so important for us to love God from the core of our very being. God has made Himself the light, both the standard and the pointer, of how human beings are to live in relation to Him and the blessings that are incurred when we do so… we get “life.”
Not only do we get a life but loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength makes us better because we will pursue the standard of God and be changed in the process. We will be better, a better person, a better husband, a better wife, a better son, a better daughter, a better society.
The Bible is replete with stories and events that depict the calamity and chaos that befall human society when a loving relationship with God is not maintained. It is not that God needs our love, but it is for OUR benefit. Loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength makes us better in every way!