All the Law and the Prophets


Jesus, Others, then You

We live by the rule of law in the United States. We have civic laws that ensure we are civil to one another and we have criminal laws that keep us from breaking the more potentially damaging strands that hold our society together. The subject of law is a lesson in the moral codes a society deems necessary to maintain the structure that holds it together. Without them, we would not be a nation.

So what else in our lives has this element (that of law)?

Family: how many laws did your parents have? There are some that are unwritten, every family has them, and others that were explicitly stated. My dad always told my brothers and I, “Don’t lie to me and don’t disrespect your mother.” I have to say that the belt came out most often when one of these two was violated.

Sports: would it be possible to participate in a sport if there were no rules? How would you even know what you were playing? The rules make the sport. Unless, of course, the game is Calvinball, which precludes all rules.


Military: what chaos would ensue if those in the military governed themselves? Let’s just willy-nilly give people training, access to powerful weapons and funds, then just let them loose to do whatever they want. Sound like a good plan? The US military is guided by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Without it, there would be no military.

Job: how do you tell one employer from another? You might say product or service, but these don’t separate companies within the same industry. Some call this separation personality or atmosphere. You might say that mission is the key. I would say that the code or guidelines a company provides its employees set businesses apart.

Nature: huh? We all know that there are natural laws that govern everything. Without these laws there would be no life. As the “Ghostbusters” said nature without rules would lead to “Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!”

These are just a few simple examples of how the rule of law dominates our lives. Some seem to believe that anarchy (life without laws) would be a good thing, but I contend that it would be impossible. There is no way that we could divest ourselves of every single guideline that governs our lives. And why would we want to? Law makes life pleasant and livable (for the most part) whether we agree with them or not.

Which brings us to today’s seed.

The words Jesus, Others, then You are the substance of the acronym JOY. The idea is that our focus should first be on Jesus, then others and finally ourselves. It’s a quaint little play on words that reminds us of an important lesson. In Matthew 20:25-27 Christ said:

You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and those who       are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desire to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.

We are to have the attitude, and action, of a servant to everyone; and this servanthood will bring us joy.

But there is an even more important point to be made based on the acronym JOY. It speaks first of Jesus (God) and then others. Where else, having to do with the law rather than our joy, does that occur in the Bible?

Several places actually, but we will take just one. It’s found in Matthew chapter 22. Again the religious leaders are trying to trap Him. A lawyer asks “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (36) What would Jesus say? It was a test to see how well He knew the scripture or to see if He would errantly name a specific law that they could then refute. But…

“Jesus said unto 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 22:37-40).

Did you catch it? Did you see the acronym JOY in Jesus’ words?

The first commandment is about honoring God (Jesus), the second is about loving others. And that last phrase is very important. Every law, every word from the prophets hang on these two commandments.

So, in a nutshell, what does all of this mean?

Laws, commands, guidelines are essential. Not just so that we can live in a free society, not just so we won’t receive punishment, but because we want to have JOY.

Amazing how the entire word of God, the entirety of the law, can be coalesced into that one acronym.


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