Bible Reading: Matthew 22:23-46
It’s not unusual for me to hear someone say that they love God. After all, I am a Pastor and that’s what you are supposed to say when you are around a Pastor. However, I have to be honest. Sometimes, I have heard people say that they love God…who are as mean as a snake. I’m sorry. I know that is not a nice thing to say. But it’s true. What is not true, though…is that they love God. I can hear you now, “The Bible says don’t judge.” Okay, get over it. Actually, that’s not what the Bible says. Look it up. Finish the verse. The point that I’m making…or rather, Jesus is making…is that you cannot say that you love God…and at the same time not love people. Let me ask you a question: How do you express your love to God? I don’t mean how do you “say” you love God. I mean: How do you express your love to God in a tangible, physical, concrete, touchable, real world, in this life manner? By loving people. That’s what Jesus was getting at. We express our love to God in a manner that matters…when we love other people. Get it right. Or, get left. Now that was funny.
Thoughts about God for My Grandkids:
A college Professor once gave a test that was many pages long. At the top of the first page the Instructions said, “You have one hour. Read the entire test before answering any questions.” The students went to work. At the end of the hour the Professor took up the test. Almost every student in the classroom had read the Instructions and done what it said. They read the entire test before answering any questions. That is, everyone except Nancy. Nancy didn’t follow the Instructions. In fact, she didn’t even read the Instructions. She knew how to take a test…she didn’t need any Instructions. She had the highest grade average in the class and she wanted to ace this test…so she took off. She quickly answered question #1…piece of cake. #2 was a little harder and took a little longer. She whipped through #3-11. Took a little more time with #12. #13-24 weren’t too hard. About that time she looked around. Several people were just sitting at their desks, starring off into the distance. They weren’t even working on the test. She thought, “They don’t know the answers. They’re not even trying. I’m so much smarter than they are!” Then, she went back to work. Time was running out. Obviously, the Professor knew that they would not have enough time to complete the test. He was probably going to see who could answer the most questions in one hour. She was going to win this contest. She worked faster and faster. “Bing”, the timer went off. The time for the test was over.
As the students passed their tests in Nancy looked around rather smugly. “Why, their pages are blank. They didn’t know any of the answers. My parents have raised a genius!”
The Professor looked over the exams and then said, “Class, you have done exceptionally well, today. In fact, everyone in the class gets an ‘A’ on the test, except Nancy. Nancy, you failed.”
“What,” she said? “I’m smarter than anyone else in the class. I answered more questions than anyone else. How did I fail?”
“Simple,” said the Professor. “You did not follow the Instructions.”
“Yes I did,” she said.
“Really? The Instructions said to read the entire test before answering any questions. Did you do that?”
“Yes, yes I did.”
“You read the entire test before you answered any questions?”
“Yes, I think I did.”
“Then you read the last question…before you answered any of the questions?”
“I don’t think you did. Because the last question said: “Do not answer any questions. Sign your name at the top of the page and sit quietly at your desk.”
Nancy couldn’t believe it. She told the Professor that it wasn’t fair. She said, “I answered almost every question on the test.”
The Professor said, “Well, that’s very impressive. But you did not do the one thing that I told you to do. And until you do that…then nothing else matters. I’m sorry Nancy…but you failed the test.”
There was a group of Jewish leaders called the Pharisees. They thought that they were the smartest people around. They also thought that they were the best, the most holy people around. Why? Because they did everything, I mean everything, to try to keep the Law that God had given to Moses. One day, they came to Jesus and asked Him a question, “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in all of God’s Law?” Now, they had been thinking about this for years. They had arguments and debates with each other. They held conferences by the Sea of Galilee. They wrote scrolls. This was deep, deeeeeep stuff. No, not really. The answer to their question is really not that difficult. Jesus responded, “The greatest Law is that you love God.” You can almost see them looking around at each other…nodding in approval. One guy responded, “That’s just what I said last week in our meeting.” Another one said, “That’s what I wrote on page 2 of my book. Have you read my book?” Oh, they were so proud of themselves. But wait, wait for it…Jesus wasn’t through. He continues…”By the way, there is a second Law that comes right out of the first Law. In fact, the way to keep the first Law, is to keep the second Law. The second law is, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you’re not loving people, then you’re not loving God. Because the way to express your love to God, is to love people.” You could hear a pin drop. No one said a thing. You see, it’s easy to “say” that you love God. But the “evidence”, the “proof” that you love God is seen in how you love other people. And the Pharisees didn’t love other people, very much. They loved themselves. Other people just got in the way. Other people were not as smart as them. Other people were not as good as them. How could they love other people? But Jesus had made it plain…if you don’t love other people, then you are not loving God, at all. You can keep all of the other laws. You can make people think that you are perfect, and holy, and good. But until you love God by loving other people…then it doesn’t make any difference at all how many other laws you keep, or how well you keep them.
Are you a loving person? What would your friends say? Did you know that when you love other people two things happen? One, by loving them, you are loving God. You see, the way that we express our love to God…is to love the people that God has made. And when we love other people…it is pleasing to God. Second, by loving other people, they experience the love of God coming through you. They can come to the realization that God exists by looking at the world and the stars around them…and thinking, “This didn’t happen by itself. Someone had to make it.” But, they’ll never learn about God’s love just by star gazing. They will only learn that from you. Who do you know…that needs to know God? Love them. Be kind, and patient, and encouraging to them. Help them. Be a friend. Let them learn about God’s love through you. I know. Sometimes people are not easy to love. But keep at it. Think about this. God sent His Son, Jesus, to show you how much He loves you. How much does He love you? He died for you. Jesus loves you so much that He died to pay the price for your sin. That’s a lot of love. Now, who do you know that needs to know that God loves them? Let them learn about God’s love…by the way that you love them. When you love other people…you are actually showing God how much you love Him. Now go…love God…big time!
Love you more than bunches and bunches,