“Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ’ ”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’ ” (Matthew 22:35–40).
WE ARE FREE TO CHOOSE OUR THOUGHTS, BUT WE ARE NOT FREE TO CHOOSE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THOSE THOUGHTS. For example, suppose that in a certain situation we’re faced with the choice of whether to think generous thoughts or selfish thoughts. We’re free to go either way, but having chosen, we need not think we can get the results that would have come from the other choice. Ideas always have consequences, sooner or later, and we need to see the importance of governing our thinking so as to get the consequences we desire and avoid the ones we don’t.
In today’s text, Jesus said that the most important commandment is to love God and the second most important, to love our neighbor. At the very least, this teaching gives us the key to constructive thinking. If we make the love of God and our neighbor the primary points around which our minds revolve, good results must surely follow. If, as the Scriptures teach, we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7,8), there is no better sowing than to focus our love on these two objects. When we do this, the law of cause and effect will work to our benefit rather than to our detriment.
But look at the price we pay when we don’t have our hearts focused rightly: our energy is dissipated, our love is distracted, and our joy is diluted. When we fritter ourselves away in the pursuit of worldly values, we set in motion a train of very undesirable consequences. By letting our minds take the course of least resistance, we forfeit the very best that life has to offer.
There is an important sense in which we are held captive by the thoughts we choose to think. So to be liberated from enslavement to sinful thoughts, we must let ourselves be captivated by higher values: the love of God and His creatures. For us, freedom does not mean having no master; it means having a wise and loving Master. To bind ourselves to Him — with committed love — is to be set free from the consequences of every lesser love.
“If thou intend not nor seek nothing else but the pleasing of God and the profit of thy neighbor thou shalt have inward liberty” (Thomas à Kempis).