How would you answer the question, who are the most important people in your life? If I were to make a list, the people on it would be my wife, sons, daughter in-law, and granddaughter. If I expanded my list, it would include my siblings, extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins), and close friends. Your list may be slightly different but, more than likely, it would include some of the same people.
Another question related to the first is, who are the most valued people in your life? These two questions are connected because we usually value the people who are most important to us. I mention “usually” because there are times we speak and act in ways that devalue the very people who we would identify as most important to us. I know that is true for me. How about you?
Mark 12:28-34 says,“One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”32 The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other.33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbour as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Mark was aware that the teachers of religious law, known as Pharisees and Sadducees, asked Jesus their questions with deceptive motives. This religious leader’s motive was to trick Him into saying something that he could use against Him (Matthew 22:35). The first part of Jesus’ answer relates to a person’s relationship with God while the second part is focused on how a person relates to others. Jesus clearly stated that loving God must be the most important priority in a person’s life while loving others should be a very close second. He concludes by saying that these two commandments are more important than all other commandments. Therefore, we are to pay special attention to them.
Then the religious leader responded with praise, maybe even flattery. He wanted Jesus, who he referred to as Teacher, to know he understood God’s Law by referencing 1 Samuel 15:22. This verse tells us, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”This cuts to the core of the conflict. Jesus came to earth to live as an example to follow and to ultimately sacrifice His life for all mankind. This encounter can be compared to two university professors, going head-to-head in a debate or like two heavy weight boxers fighting it out in the ring. Both Jesus and the religious leader were exchanging blows to make their point and get the upper hand. Then, in response, Jesus trumps the conversation by letting him know he wasn’t far from the Kingdom of God, meaning, he had not quite made it with all his efforts to get there. Heaven was out of his reach because he hadn’t done what was most important, place his faith in Jesus and follow Him.
So, here’s my point. Relationships matter to God but He want us to have Him as the priority in our life and he wants others to be close behind. So, so close, that they are inseparable. Where are you at in your relationship with God? Is He number one in your life? That is God’s desire. And where are you at in your relationship with those most important to you? How are you valuing those most important to you? Since relationships are a part of our whole life, how are your relationships going to be today and in the future? We can’t change the past but we can seek forgiveness from God and those we love most. What will you do to improve your most important relationships? My prayer is that you will obey God and His challenge to love Him and others.
This is a song from a gifted musician who was committed to singing praise to God and helping the body of Christ grow in their faith. I hope it encourages you as it has encouraged me.
To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice by Keith Green