This week, I was on the phone with my sister pondering the most effective way to work through a formidable to-do list. We all have our to-do lists, things that are important, things that have to get done, and have to get done in the right order. They configure our time and drive our efforts. Heaven help us if something is added. As I was discussing this all-important piece of paper with my sister, she interrupted with her dead-pan wit and said, “Love God, love others, isn’t the rest optional?”
At that moment, she sounded a lot like this guy I know, this guy who lived 2,000 years ago, had himself a dead-pan wit, and said something very similar.
In Mark 12, a scribe comes to Jesus with his own to-do list of sorts. He comes asking what is the greatest commandment of all, what should be top priority on the to-do list. This man is well-versed in everything the law has to say on commandments, he might even have an inkling of what the answer might be. Jesus says to him “Love the Lord you God with all your hearts, all your soul, all of your mind and all your strength. Love your neighbor as your love yourself.” The scribe says to Jesus “you are right, this is much more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices.” The scribe seemed to know the answer, but he also needed to hear it again.
I think we can relate to the scribe, we have our lists to follow, and we know what should be the top priority, but in a way it seems too simple. Only two items, “love God, love others” looks too short. It becomes a short list with a tall order. Orienting ourselves to this priority does result in changing our “to-do” lists.
Whenever I get caught up in the to-do list insanity, I like to remember the sign on the church I attended before St. Paul. It said, “To-Do List 1. Love God 2. Love Others 3. Buy Eggs.” It was a cutesy reminder that really, our to-do list should always have the first two slots filled. It is that simple. Regardless of the other worthy things that make their way onto the list, these two can’t be dropped to make room for something else. These two, “Love God and love others” really has a way of making everything else optional.
– Amy Diller, pastor-in-residency