Which commandment in the law is the greatest?

Published August 20, 2021, 12:02 AM

by Manila Bulletin


In pointing the greatest commandment, Jesus refers to the Shema Israel which the Jews recite as prayer, profession of faith, and as the Lord’s command: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Dt 6:4-5). Thus, the great commandment is not foreign to Jesus’ hearers; it is already in their mouth; they have only to observe it.

Jesus, however, points to a less known commandment and pairs it with the Shema: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:18). And the neighbor is not just a fellow Israelite; he or she is anyone in need, as Jesus points out in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:29-37). John points out that the love of neighbor is the test of the love of God: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn 4:20-21). Paul likewise summarizes all the commandments in one commandment of love of neighbor: “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:10).


When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2021,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.