January 30, 2017 • Life for Leaders
“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Last week, we began an in-depth examination of Mark 12:29-31. As you may recall, this passage records the response of Jesus to a question from a Jewish legal scholar. He asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (12:28). Jesus responded by quoting Scripture, beginning with Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This momentous Old Testament passage begins with the affirmation of God’s unique identity. Then it calls us to respond to God by loving God with all that we are. According to Jesus, we are to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In this week’s devotions, I want to consider with you how we might love God this way at work. We’re accustomed to thinking that we love God when we gather with God’s people for worship, when we spend devotional time with God, or when we do specific acts of kindness and justice in God’s name. It’s less common, I believe, for us to think of loving God in and through our daily work. Yet, in fact, this is one of the major contexts in which we are able to express our love for the Lord.
Consider, for example, the imperative: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (12:30). When we hear this, we tend to think it means, “Love God with all of your feelings.” For us, the heart is the center of our emotions. But, in the ancient Jewish conception of human life, the emotions resided in the stomach. (This is not a silly idea, by the way. We often feel excitement or fear or nervousness physically in our bowels, not our literal hearts.) For Jesus and his contemporaries, the heart was the seat, not so much of feeling as of will. From the heart one made decisions. One chose how to act or how not to act. Emotions could figure in the exercise of the heart. But, in the end, the heart was a matter of willing, not feeling.
So, when Jesus, following Deuteronomy, says we are to love the Lord with all of our heart, he is not urging us to feel emotions for God, though this can be a wonderful experience, of course. Rather, Jesus is saying that we are to exercise our will as an expression of love for God. Through the choices and decisions we make each day, we have the opportunity to love the Lord.
In tomorrow’s Life for Leaders devotion, I want to share some thoughts about how we might love God with our heart, with our will, in the context of our work. For now, I’d like you to mull this over. Think about how you might exercise your will in your work in a way that expresses love for God. The following questions might help you.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What difference might it make if you were to understand “heart” in the biblical sense rather than in the sense of contemporary culture?
Have you ever exercised your will as an intentional act of love for God?
Can you think of a time when you made a difficult choice at work because you sought to honor the Lord?
Gracious God, you are the Lord. You are our God. You are one. How thankful we are to know you, to be loved by you, and to have the privilege of loving you in return.
Lord, you have given us the ability to make choices, to exercise our will either for good or for evil. Yes, even though sin warps our freedom, still you enable us to decide for good, to decide for you. Thank you.
We pray that you will teach us how to love you with our whole heart, with all that we choose, each day, in each context of life, especially our work. May we choose what is right and honoring to you as an act of grateful love. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: What Does the Bible Say About Work?
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
This helpfully informs what I was thinking about earlier this morning. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he shall give you the desires of your heart.”
In my teen years, I thought this meant that if I served God enough, I’d get my heart desire (at that time is was getting married). Later, I came to see that delighting in (focusing on) God means that we get. . . .GOD! What we focus on becomes our heart’s desire – what we ‘get’ in the process.
Emotion and choice (will) work together in interesting ways. It’s e-motion that moves us – motivates us and our choices. When those two dance together, the result is powerful and sustained action. Eugene Peterson refers to this when he speaks of, “Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” Now connecting our will with our focus or passion, our service to God with a whole heart becomes that sort of ‘flow’ talked about by psychologists: the involvement of emotion, will, action, and, ultimately, spirit in partnership with Creator.
In situations of hard choices, we may start out as fragmented. Focusing on God brings about our attention, our love, our choices and our behavior all in concert.