“All your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength….”

In Isaiah 1:18 the Lord invites us to “Come, let us reason together”.  .

1.)     “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;  though they be

red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

2.)   “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;

3.)     “But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword.

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

So, it appears we are to reason together regarding the issues of sin and salvation (1), obedience (2) and rebellion (3), and the consequences of each (2&3).

While it can be difficult to get two people to agree on those issues,  I’d like to offer just one verse and suggest that if we agree upon just that one verse, we then have a foundation that will enable us to come to agreement about everything else in the entire world!  The verse is this:

“And he said to him, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all    your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.”   Luke 10:27

You will recognize this as Jesus’ response to the Pharisees, who came together after they heard that he had silenced the Sadduccees, to develop an intellectual strategy to trip Jesus up theologically.

Do you agree that this is the first and great commandment?  Do you care?  Does it matter in the big picture of your life?  If so, then the next part may be of interest to you.  If we can agree just on this verse, and we care, and it matters in our life that we do, what does it say we have to do?

1.)  ”Love the Lord your God with all your heart.”  What is the character of those who   love with their heart, who have given their hearts to the Lord?  Thinking of God makes them feel good.  They are touched by tender testimonies and kind, reassuring words of God’s love for them.  They have received the gift of grace.  They are grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  They know God as the sacrificing Savior Jesus Christ and as the loving Father.

2.)     “With all your soul”  What is the character of those who have also given their souls to the Lord?  Jesus is the most important thing in the world to them, more than family, friends, or worldly possessions.  They know they are owned by Him.  Their will is surrendered to Him.   They know Him as the  Lord and Master of their lives.

3.)     “With all your strength”  What is the character of those who have given their strength to the Lord in addition to their hearts and souls?  They are willing to be His disciples, to work on behalf of His kingdom.  They know that in order to do His work they have to submit to His instruction regarding what to do and how to do it.  They appropriate God’s power and relinquish their desire to control others, God, even themselves.  They know Him as Teacher and Counselor.

4.)     “And with all your mind”  What is the character of those who have given all their mind?  They have ceased to demand their own way.  They’re committed to being transformed, changed by the renewal of their minds, not just once but forever as they grow and learn and are brought ever more closely into line with the image of Christ.  They are passionate about God’s Word and trust its proclamations, prohibitions, principles, and promises. They are brought into a personal, intimate fellowship with the Lord through His Word and the fellowship of His Holy Spirit.  They see, hear, and think as He does, but even so, they know that they are not God. They hunger and thirst for righteousness and pursue relationship with Jesus vigorously through the Word.  They call Him both Friend and Lord God Almighty.

If we can agree upon just this one scripture and seek to attain the level of love that it demands, then it alone will bring us to agreement on all other matters, scriptural or secular.  The agreement, however, will not be one with another, but all of us in agreement with God!

If we give all four aspects of ourselves to Him, He then is revealed to us more completely.  What a beautiful and wonderful thing it is when we see more and more of Him and not just one part!   Unfortunately, however, many will be content to simply feel the sweetest of loving with their hearts.  They will compartmentalize their lives in such a way as to not have to give all of who they are in all of their being to God.

When the Lord first put this Scripture from Luke 10 on my heart.  I sought out all the places in the gospel where it is written.  Matthew 22:37,  Mark12:30, and Luke 10:27.  I also read the original text in Deuteronomy which Jesus was quoting in the gospels- Deuteronomy 6:5.  I puzzled over the differences in them and sought the counsel of the Holy Spirit in understanding these differences.  It is my belief that not one thing in the Bible is contradictory or insignificant.  Therefore, I wanted to understand why these verses had the differences.

Deuteronomy says: “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

Matthew says: “”with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

Mark says: “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

Luke says: “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all our strength, and with all your mind.”

After prayer and meditation on these Scriptures, I have been led to an understanding that seems to satisfy my questions.   In Deuteronomy, the word “might” describes the fullest measure of both intellectual ability and physical ability. Put another way,  “mind” and “strength”.    So, Mark and Luke interpret the verse in more specific terms than just “might”, but with the same meaning.  Their order of listing them (Mark – mind then strength; Luke- strength then mind.) is really not an issue, it seems to me.  Rather their respective orders of listing the two perhaps is a reflection of how the process occurred in their own lives.  Mark is known to have backed out of a missionary trip at one point- his “strength” having failed perhaps even when his mind desired to be committed to the Lord.  And so, for him, the loving with all his strength may have actually come last.  Luke, an older, more mature writer and disciple, was perhaps able to observe how  loving God with one’s strength, following as a disciple, working out one’s commitment faithfully over time perhaps  preceded the act of loving with all the mind.   I think that even the gospel verse among these three that captures our imagination perhaps is reflective of how the process is being accomplished  in our own lives.   For those who choose vocations in ministry, loving God with all their “strength” may have more impact and meaning, for example.  Those who are intellectual in nature and “pick nits” and argue relentlessly before yielding wholly to God perhaps find that “loving with the mind” is a more important act and likely precedes their  ability to love  Him with their “strength”.

Matthew leaves “strength” out altogether.  It’s possible that he saw “loving with the mind” as a more necessary element than loving with one’s strength, which fails as we age and perhaps he equated “might” with “mind” without taking “strength” into consideration.  After all, even the most physically infirm can still love God completely with no physical strength to offer whatsoever.  Also, like James, he may have determined that the act of loving God with one’s mind would naturally lead to loving Him through action or strength.  Matthew’s gospel, too, is written to persuade unbelievers and encourage believers in their faith in Christ as the son of God.  It is designed to capture the intellectual faculties.  By comparison, Paul, in his epistles, spends considerably more time in developing the imagery of  “strength”,  building the case for perseverance,  and for the necessity of  the transformation of the “mind”.

This understanding has resolved matters in my mind and I no longer puzzle over the differences among the verses.  I trust that the Holy Spirit will lead each person in an understanding according to their own reason, experience, and tradition as they affirm the supremacy of Scripture as the arbiter of truth!

A similar thought from an earlier era:

From missionary-evangelist Stanley Jones, Song of Ascents, Nashville: Abingdon, 1968, p. 189:

Swami Shivananda, a famous swami in India, used to tell his disciples: “Kill the mind and then, and then only, can you meditate.”  The Christian position is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind” – the intellectual nature; “with all thy heart” – the emotional nature; “with all thy soul” – the willing nature and “with all thy strength”- the physical nature.  The total person is to love him – mind, emotion, will, strength.  But the “strength” might mean the strength of all three.  Some love him with the strength of the mind and the weakness of the emotion – the intellectualist in religion; some love him with the strength of emotion and the weakness of the mind – the sentimentalist in religion; some love him with the strength of the will and the weakness of emotion – the man of iron who is not very approachable.  But loving God with the strength of the mind, the strength of the emotion, and the strength of the will – that makes the truly Christian and the truly balanced and the truly strong character.

CBByrd  rev. 3-13-16