I love the way Jesus ends this conversation in Mark chapter 12.
And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall 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, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that He is One; and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Wouldn’t you love for Jesus to tell you that something you said showed that you weren’t far from the kingdom of God? I’ve told you that I’ve never been an overachiever, but I do like to be thought of as intelligent, and I would especially like Jesus to think I was intelligent, and say just to me, maybe with a little wink, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
So I see here that one way to make Jesus think I am intelligent is to understand that loving God with all I have and all I am, and loving my neighbor as I love myself, is more than any sacrifice I could make or offering I could give. Now, I think I understand this, but my wanting-to-be-thought-of-as-intelligent thing (read “flaw”) makes me want to say, “Jesus, have I answered intelligently too?” and miss the BIG prize, which is not that Jesus thinks I’m smart, but that I’m not far from the kingdom of God.
I can’t wait for the next sections of this book where we talk more about what the kingdom of God is, and why being not far from it is so exhilarating. (I think Day 27 is the first one.) The main thing is that the all-powerful, loving, creator of all things is there.
If you are journaling, write some notes about how loving God and loving your neighbor is more than offerings and sacrifices. How might knowing this make you closer to the kingdom of God? What will your kingdom statement with which to replace your worry thoughts be today?
*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.