DAY 28 - WITH ALL YOUR SOUL - Scott Pontier

Scott Pontier

Deuteronomy 6:4-9: Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Jesus tells us that the command to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength is the greatest commandment. It is part of the section of the Scripture known as the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) – the prayer that Jesus and Jews since him have prayed morning and evening to commit themselves to follow the Lord. When we think about those words we tend to pass by the phrase “heart and soul” quickly, attributing the idea to loving God with our spirit and emotions, very passionately.

Our understanding can be enriched by understanding the word “soul” (Nephesh) better. Nephesh means “life” as well as “soul.” So the Jewish interpretation of “love the LORD with all your soul” is actually that we should love God with all of our lives – every moment throughout our lives. Think about that for a moment. Could you catalog each of your moments in your life today? Yesterday? Would each one of those moments characterize a love of God? On one episode of “The Simpsons,” Marge urges Homer out of bed on a Sunday morning claiming that “God only asks for one hour a week” to which Homer replies, “the God should’ve made the week an hour longer!” Loving God with all our nephesh, “life,” is the opposite of being a one-hour-a-week Christian whose thoughts are largely filled with distractions of work, politics, hobbies, investments, sporting events, and entertainment. While many of those things are good, squeezing God in as an afterthought is exactly the opposite of this phrase in the Deuteronomy. This is hard in today’s world, even for those of us involved in paid ministry – the “professional Christians” in the room. For each of us, we must take stock of our choices and realize that choosing the “good” things in our lives can often be the enemy of choosing the “best” things instead.

What does it really mean to love God with all of your life? One traditional interpretation of “with all your nephesh” is the idea that we should love God even to the point of sacrificing our lives for him. There is a powerful story told to illustrate this idea. Rabbi Akiva, a greatly respected Jewish thinker and rabbi who lived in the first century AD, was tortured to death publicly by the Romans because he refused to give up teaching and studying the scriptures. It was the time of saying the Morning Prayer, and during his torture, his students heard him reciting the prayer from Deuteronomy instead of crying out in pain. His students called out to him, “Teacher, even now?” The dying rabbi said, “All my life I have wondered about the phrase that says ‘Love the Lord your God with all of your soul,’ wondering if I would ever have the privilege of doing this. Now that chance has come to me, shall I not grasp it with joy?” He repeated the first verse, “hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone,” until his soul left him.

What would it take for you to love God with all of your life? What keeps you from this?

What are the “good” things you are choosing that are keeping you from choosing the “best” things?

What do you need to submit to Christ in your life today?

Scott Pontier is the Student Ministries Pastor at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Grove City