Out of the Heart

God is always, relentlessly, about the inside out.

“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 

The word translated “with” here – “with all your heart” – is ek or ex. It is “a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), from, out (of place, time, or cause literal or figurative).”i So, you could also translate this command as “Love the Lord your God out of, or, from the whole of your heart.”  

I guess what struck me about this verse is that the love that Jesus is talking about comes from the inside out. It is not just part either, like a tithe or what is convenient. It is all, whole, completely. This is like the poor widow that impressed Jesus so much. 

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of (ek) her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44 

She gave “out of.” She gave all.  

And, this kind of love is not pasted on the outside. There is a related Greek word, exothen, which means “from without.” It is the word Jesus used when rebuking the Pharisees. 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside [exothen] of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26 

 They did their good, religious works, not out from their hearts, but from the outside. They were “from without” like the costume and makeup and script of an actor. That is what hypocrite means in the Greek: “an actor under an assumed character.”  

But God is always, relentlessly, about the inside out. 

Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’” … [Jesus] went on: “What comes out of (ek) a man is what makes him ‘unclean’. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.” Mark 7:15, 20-23 

Maybe that is what circumcising your heart is all about. Getting rid of the outside, the “from without” attempts to be right with God – the attempts that so often end up in play-acting and self-righteousness – and get down to what is really in there. 

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that (for the purpose, to the intent that, to the end that) you may live. Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV) 

In Mark 12:29-31, Jesus is quoting the “Shema” in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. When I went back to see the corresponding Hebrew word for the Greek ek, “out of,” I was surprised to find that the word translated “with” is not in the Hebrew at all. It is as if the commandment is:  

Love the Lord your God heart! Love him soul! Love him strength! All and completely – the whole of, altogether, the totality! 

The Shema talks straight to the heart, and God’s passionate desire is that the heart respond straight back. Like the poor widow, there might not be much of worth in there. I know there is not much good in mine, except what He has given. But, out of the poverty of my spirit, out of my yearning heart, I want to respond completely and totally.  

As you are one, Lord, may our hearts and mind and strength respond to your command in love as one. Unified and pure. 

The goal of this command is love, which comes from (ek = out of) a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:5 

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11 

Love the Lord your God heart! 

Image, Widow’s Mite – Ancient Roman Bronze Coins, by Royce Bair https://flic.kr/p/7kuEAk  

Human Coins

You have the image of God stamped on you. You are a human “coin” who belongs to God. Give that which is stamped with His image – yourself – completely to God.

“Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But He detected their trickery and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Luke 20:22-25 (NASB)

In the New Testament we read this famous account of the Pharisees trying to trick Jesus with the question about whether they should pay taxes to Caesar or not. They knew that either way he answered, yes or no, he would be in trouble.

The Roman coins were considered idolatrous by the Jews because they had the image of Caesar on them and, also, because Caesar proclaimed himself god. So, if Jesus said yes, he would be breaking the Mosaic Law. If Jesus said no, he would be breaking Roman law and could be arrested. He answered by saying, look, this coin has the image stamped on it of the one who owns it – so give it back to its owner. But, he said, give to God what is his. What did he mean by that?

In Jesus’ time there was something called the Mishnah, an oral tradition of the wisdom of the rabbis. It was later written down. But these sayings would have been known to Jesus’ learned challengers who were trying to ensnare him. One teaching, comparing stamped coins with people, is pretty amazing when applied to Jesus’ answer:

The mishna teaches: And this serves to tell of the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, as when a person stamps several coins with one seal, they are all similar to each other. But the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, stamped all people with the seal of Adam the first man, as all are his offspring, and not one of them is similar to another. — Sanhedrin 38a:10

Applying this teaching you could say that we human beings are stamped with the image of God. Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26). But unlike the Roman coins which were all stamped with the same image of Caesar, the stamps God puts on his human “coins” are all unique, revealing God’s inexhaustible power and creativity.

For we are God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

And when Jesus, pointing to the image, said, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s,” the teachers of the Law would have understood what he has saying to them. You have the image of God stamped on you. You are a human “coin” who belongs to God. Give that which is stamped with His image – yourself – completely to God. Give to Caesar what is stamped with his image.

This idea of human coins made me think of the parable that Jesus told of the woman who lost a coin and swept the house carefully, searching for it, until she found it. The insight of the rabbis gives this parable a totally different meaning for me, or a deeper meaning. Jesus told this story along with the parable of the lost sheep. Each human “coin” or “sheep” is precious to God, and he will tear the house apart, search high and low to recover one that is lost.

When an expert in the law asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:34-37).” That is giving to God what is God’s. But Jesus went further. He added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He was commanding us to acknowledge the preciousness, the inestimable value, the unending diversity, and creativity revealed in the unique stamp of God’s image on each one of our brothers and sisters, each human coin, and love them – as God loves us.

 

Photo of Roman denarius by DrusMAX – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24408884