The Greatest Commandment
A lesson set from Trinity United Church of Christ, Pottstown, PA
Summary of Lessons in this Set:
Computer (Fishermen's.Net): Look at the law and the Great Commandment through our memory verse (Cal & Marty software).
Cooking (Loaves and Fishes Café): Children will make a recipe missing one of the ingredients. Question: What does it mean to love God with ALL your heart, soul, strength, and mind?
Video (Mountaintop Movies): Children will watch a video of our mission in Ecuador and possibly VHC video. Focus: What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself?
Drama/Puppet (Moved by the Spirit): Situations using puppets. Does this person love God? Neighbor? Self?
Note: a printable version of this lesson set, with some updates, can be found at the end of this lesson set found here.
Luke 10:27 (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31)
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:2
This passage, which appears in both Mark and Luke, is set in the context of a scholarly debate about the law. In Matthew and Mark it is Jesus who answers the scribe’s question “what commandment is the first of all?” (Mark 12:29, Matthew 22:36) Matthew adds that the second is like the first commandment, linking love of neighbor to love of God. (Matthew 22:39) and in saying “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (22:40) In Luke, a lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life and Jesus responds by asking the lawyer what the law says. The lawyer answers with the Great Commandment, to which Jesus replies “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” The lawyer then asks “who is my neighbor?” and Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which the children will learn in our next rotation.
The Great Commandment is not a new teaching by Jesus. The first part “Love the Lord your God…” is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, where it is part of a general introduction of the law and a commandment to teach it to your children. The implication is that the way you love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind is by following the law. The question for us is do we equate love of God with adherence to the law, or do we understand love of God as being expressed in other ways?
The second part, “love your neighbor as yourself,” is found in Leviticus 19:18. Note, however that in the Leviticus story the commandment is clearly about “your people.” It is Jesus, in the parable of the Good Samaritan which follows, who broadens the commandment to include all people, not just those in your own sect. The debate of how to interpret the term “neighbor” is not unique to the gospels. It was a common debate within Judaism, as was the summary of the law with these two commandments. Jesus is not so much saying anything new as he is saying what side of this great debate he agrees with.
Teaching this Story to Kids
Law -- what is the law? Having a good understanding of what the law was in Jesus’ day helps us understand this great commandment in historical perspective. Law covered a great deal more in Jesus’ day than it does in ours. Help children understand how sometimes the Biblical word “law” means the same thing as modern “law” and sometimes means the same thing as “rules.”
Love God – The command to love God with heart, soul, strength, and mind sounds a little repetitious, and it is. But the message is clear – we must love God with everything we have, with every fiber of our being. We must love God more than we love anything or anyone else. That’s a tall order.
Love Neighbor – This will be expanded upon in the next rotation of the Good Samaritan, but the point needs to be made here as well. Who is my neighbor? What does it mean to love one’s neighbor? There is a tendency to broaden this definition to include people very far away (i.e. foreign missions), but bringing it close to home is important for children, too. After all, it’s easy to say we “love” the people in our mission communities in Ecuador, a lot harder to love our siblings and the kid who teases us on the playground. The key is to teach kids that this is a “both/and” proposition, not “either/or.”
Love Self – A lot of attention has been paid in recent years that love of others and love of self are interconnected. While some of this sounds like psychobabble, and some of it sounds like an excuse to put “me first” (not the intent of the scripture by any means) there is a certain truth that a person who has no self-esteem or self-worth finds it very hard to enter into relationships that are truly loving.