Love & Groceries (The Greatest Commandment)

In the midst of facing COVID-19 many people have responded with panic. Our deep-seating priorities often come to the surface when we are under pressure, so it isn’t surprising to see a lot of sinful selfishness on display. People grab and hoard, and push to the front of lines.

At one level this just seems natural. But, more accutately, it is a sheer sinful disregard of our neighbours. Jesus teaches us a better way to shop.

The Greatest Commandment

Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment of God’s Law is. He replied:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40. Citing Deuteronomy 6:5 & Leviticus 19:18

In characteristic form, Jesus didn’t answer in the terms in which the question was asked. He not only told the man the greatest commandment, but sneaked in a second commandment which is so inimately connected to the first that it really should be mentioned too. We must love God and love people too.

There are deep connections between these two commands: one of the main ways of fulfilling the first commandment is by fulfilling the second. We love God by treating people the way that God wants us to treat them – in love. Human beings are God’s personal property and he takes our actions towards one another very, very seriously.

In the Old Testament world people worshipped and served their gods by means of worshipping their statues. An idol could be offered food, given shelter, and was treated with reverence. However, the true God utterly rejects all human attemps to create idols or images that represent him in the world. Instead God made his own ‘idols’; humanity was made ‘in God’s image‘. Unlike the ‘gods’ of the nations, God needs nothing from us for his own sake. However, God made us such that one of the main ways that we love and worship him is by loving one another. Human beings are sacred representations of God in the world. We worship God by loving other people for God’s sake.

What is Love?

Love is often mistaken for a mere feeling, but according to the Bible it always involves actions (1 John 3:17-18). It largely consists in tending to the welfare of your neighbour as you attend to your own.

‘After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body…’

Ephesians 5:29

So what do you want for yourself? Jesus’ command is essentially to seek that for your neighbour too:

  • You want food? Want that for your neighbour!
  • You want your family to have a well-stocked pantry? Want that for your neighbour!
  • You want security for your family? Want that for your neighbour!
  • You want someone to offer you help when you are in need? Offer that to your neighbour!
  • You want eternal life in God’s Kingdom? Tell your neighbour how!

Love isn’t complicated. It is generally simple to understand but difficult to do. It involves denying your own needs in preference for serving the needs of others. It can be risky, and in hard times love is easily mistaken for foolishness. But this is what worshipping God looks like.

So if there are limited groceries on the shelf, take less for yourself. Others need it too and whatever you take won’t be there for someone else. If groceries are limited, survive on less. If there is a queue, stand at the back of it and let others in first (particularly the elderly, or people with disabilities). Do what you can to ensure that other people have what they need. That’s what love looks like.

Probably nobody will notice. But God will.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:1-4