from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 26

Mark 12:28-44: The Two Great Commandments

The Story


Again, a scribe came to Him and asked Him a question, and his question was, "Which is the first commandment of all?" It was a question that the teachers of the church disputed about. They had so many commandments, six hundred and thirteen in all, and the ones made by the scribes were thought to be just as binding as those in the Bible. But the Lord answered, "Hear, 0 Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." If we obey these two in everything we do, we shall be obeying all the Lord's commandments.

If we love a person very much, in what ways do we show it? Do we try to please him or not? Do we try to learn and remember the things he wants us to do? Do we love the things he gives us? Are we grateful for the care he takes of us? Do we try to help him when we can? If we would want to do these things and would enjoy doing them for a friend we love, how should we feel about the Lord who made us, who has given us everything we have, our families, our friends, our homes, and all the beautiful world to live in, and who thinks of us and takes care of us every minute we live, guarding us from all sorts of evil things and misfortunes that we know nothing about? How often do you think of Him? Do you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength?

Then about loving our neighbor as ourselves. We are so far from doing that, that it is almost hard to imagine; can you imagine being really as truly glad of a good thing coming to a friend as if it came to you? A word of praise being said of him as if it were said of you? And how about these things coming to, people we don't like? There are many ways we can watch ourselves. Something has gone wrong: isn't our first impulse to think, and make other people think, that it was someone else's fault and not our own? Someone is getting ahead of us in some way: does it give us real pleasure or real pain to hear him praised? Is it easier to say a kind thing about him ourselves, or something just a little unkind? We shall be all our lives learning the lessons of these two commandments; but if we are trying to learn them we shall be happy and make our friends happy, here and in heaven forever. If we just try to learn to keep these two short commandments.

One last little thing happened just before the Lord and the disciples left the temple this day, Tuesday. The Lord was sitting near the treasury, the place where the offerings were brought - offerings to the temple, offerings to the Lord. He was watching the people put in their offerings, some more, some less; and there came a poor widow and put in two mites, the whole gift equal to about a quarter of a cent. Such a little gift it would seem! But it was all that she had, and the Lord knew it, and said she had given more than all the others. The part of the gift which reaches heaven is the love with which it is given.

After this lesson from the poor widow's mite the Lord prepared to leave the temple never to return to it again. His great work of teaching the people was over.


We should learn to say the Two Great Commandments. They tell us to love the Lord and to love our neighbor. This is all that the Lord asks. But we must think how we can show our love. How can our fathers and mothers know that we love them? By our calling them by loving names, and hugging and kissing them? This helps, but I think I hear them say, "If you really love me, you will do quickly what I asked you to do." And the Lord said, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." It is not enough to tell the Lord that we love Him. We love Him by doing what He tells us is right, and doing it promptly and cheerfully. There are as many different ways of loving the Lord as there are right things to do. Can I love Him with my hands? With my tongue? Yes, by doing and saying what is right. The commandment says that we should love the Lord with our heart; that is to feel lovingly toward Him. And with our soul; that is to think lovingly and gratefully about Him. And with our mind and strength; that is to think of and do all the good things that we know the Lord wants us to do. So we can love Him with every part of our mind and body.

We call the people that live near to us our neighbors; but should we not love people that live further off, and our father and mother and brothers and sisters, who live in the same house with us? We should love them all. The commandment means to love everybody; not to love the bad things in people, but the good things and to try to strengthen these. It does not always mean to give money to a poor man. Perhaps that would just make him more lazy and do him harm. We love him by doing what will really help him most. How can a man who knows a useful trade love his neighbor? A man who keeps a store? A person who has a garden full of beautiful flowers? A person who has two strong hands?

In one of the courts of the temple there were treasure chests into which the people put their offerings. As the Lord sat watching them, some put in a great deal, and some only a little. But it was not the amount that made some gifts more precious than others to the Lord. What makes a present precious to us? Might some very little present be more to us than some great thing? What could make it so; even the widow's two little copper coins?

1. What is the First Great Commandment? How can we love the Lord?

2. What is the Second? Who is our neighbor? How can we love him?

3. What made the poor widow's gift precious? How can I make little gifts and actions precious?

Spiritual Study


Can you find the Two Great Commandments in the Old Testament? The four faculties with which we are to love the Lord, include all our faculties. Heart and soul mean our inner love and thought; mind and strength mean thought and love brought down to action. (E. 750; A. 9936)

You find the words of David which the Lord quoted, in Psalm 110:1. The words "my Lord" mean the Savior who was coming. That David called Him Lord, showed that He was to be more than a mere man. He was to be God with us. That the Lord should sit on the Divine right hand till His enemies were overcome, means that the Divine power in the Lord would overcome and help us to overcome in every temptation. This is surely something that common people should hear gladly. (E. 298; T. 102)

Can we put all our living into even the smallest useful action? We can put the best we have of feeling and thought into it, and these are like the good Samaritan's two pence, or the widow's two mites. And when are we like a poor widow? We know what it is to be poor in spirit - not self-confident, thinking that we are wise and strong and good, but conscious of our weakness and our need. A widow suggests still more the idea of helplessness, especially the lack of true manly understanding to strengthen and guide the little love of goodness that we have. The Lord loved to help this humble state of mind and strengthen its goodness. Did the scribes also help those in this state of need? What can it mean spiritually, that they devoured widows' houses? (E. 118; A. 9198)

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