The Greatest Commandment: Shaping Work and Identity

By Uli Chi

May 6, 2017

Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart… Bind them as a sign on your hand and as an emblem on your forehead.

Deuteronomy 6:6, 8


A stone from the Sea of Galilee.

Photo © Uli Chi. All Rights Reserved.

We’ve been reflecting on the implications of the Greatest Commandment: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you shall love the LORD your God with all you heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” What is immediately striking about the Commandment is its comprehensiveness. The Commandment itself addresses human beings in the full dimensionality of our being – our “heart”, “soul” and “might”. In each dimension, the word “all” underscores the exclusive nature of this summons from God to us. The LORD alone is God. Therefore, all that we are needs to acknowledge that reality. Our “all” is the only fitting response to God’s “alone”.

The words following the commandment in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 explores and elaborates on what this might mean in practice. We have previously explored the importance of congruence between what we say and what we do, particularly as it relates to our legacy in passing this on to another generation of followers. And, we’ve reflected on how we are to live this out in every place and at all times. Today’s text provides some further helpful imagery with regard to how this commandment is to shape our work.

We are to remind ourselves regularly that loving God supremely should shape everything we do and who we are in our work. In the words of the text, we are to “bind (these words) as a sign on (our) hand and as an emblem on (our) forehead.” While there are devout Jews who take this literally, including those in Jesus’ day (Matthew 23:5), what might this look like for the rest of us?

We begin, I think, with acknowledging God’s claim on our work and our identity at work. For most of us, we live and breathe in a secular culture that doesn’t acknowledge his existence, much less his claim to love and loyalty. In my life, particularly in my professional work, it’s easy to forget who and whose I am. Today’s text reminds us that we need to be reminded regularly.

Early in my faith journey, I became disillusioned with bringing “Christian artifacts”, such as Bibles or “bumper stickers” to work. They quickly became less a reminder to me about my identity and work, than a way of making points with others. Still, we all need reminding. In my later years, I found things that were more effective. The photograph associated with today’s devotional is of a rock I picked up on a trip to the Sea of Galilee. It’s an ordinary stone. But, it brings back memories for me of the locale of Jesus’ life and work where he lived out a fully human life in response to the Greatest Commandment. And, it prompts me to do the same. A small and ordinary stone that helps shape my work and my identity at work.

What in your journey might you use to recollect who you are and what you are called to do in your work of leadership? Perhaps it’s a photo, a piece of artwork, a book, or a saying. How might you find a place in your workspace for such a reminder? Or, it might be something you can carry with you, much as the text suggests. For a season, I carried my stone in my pocket. During the day, I would occasionally feel the stone in my pocket and be encouraged by who and whose I am.

We needn’t reduce today’s text to a mere metaphor. Having a tangible, even visual, reminder is good spiritual practice. What will you use today to remind you to love God in all that you do?


Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for how practical your word is. We are grateful for the abundance of evidence in your world of who you are and of your faithfulness to us. And, we are grateful that you have given us the gift of the capacity for memory.

Help us to remember you in the context of our leadership work and vocation. Help us find some tangible reminder of you and your faithfulness as we engage in our work in a world that often practices your absence.

Thank you for your Spirit’s on-going work on reminding us of your faithfulness.

We give thanks in your name, Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryThe Blessings of Obeying God’s Covenant (Deuteronomy 7:12-15; 28:2-12)

Uli Chi

Board Member, Senior Fellow, Affiliate Professor

Dr. Uli Chi’s career is a testament to his unique approach to leadership. He has navigated the realms of for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, the theological academy, and the local church, gleaning a wealth of wisdom from each. As an award-winning technological entrepreneur, h...

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