“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” ~Deuteronomy 6:6
The Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, this foundational passage that demands we put first things first, details a love for the Lord and an obedience to God that extends to every part of one’s life. Verse five tells us to love the Lord with every bit of who we are. Verse six commands us to obey the Lord first as an individual.
We live in an age where all of us are trained from the cradle to choose for ourselves what’s best for us. By the time we can hold a spoon we’re choosing from 87 different kinds of breakfast cereal. We decide what clothes we’re going to wear and what color our hair is going to be. I decide what college I’m going to attend, what kind of car I’m going to drive, who I’m going to marry, and what church we’re going to join. It’s affirmed to us over and over in our society: I have the decisive say in the formation of my life.
What I need and want and feel is what controls and shapes my life.
My needs are non-negotiable. My needs are essential to my identity. My need for fulfillment, for expression, for respect, for my rights, my need to get my own way — those can become my center and my reason for being.
My wants are compelling. The goods and services I demand, more things to possess, more situations to control, more stuff and more power — that can become my motivation and my goals.
My feelings are paramount. Our culture tells me more and more that what I feel is actually who I am. Any thing or person who can give me joy or excitement or happiness validates me as a human being. So I require more vacations, more technology gadgets, more hobbies, and more entertainment so I never get bored or upset or discontent. If I’m not careful, my feelings can become the truth of who I am.
Obedience to God has to be at the core center of my life. The Lord and his Word, his commands, his ways — have to be the authoritative center of your life or things won’t go well. We’ll sink into a swamp of well-meaning men and women who are stuck in our needs and wants and feelings.
We obey the Lord’s commandments first because they reside deep in our hearts. His commands are at the core of who we are and what we do. When we put first things first, all that other stuff takes care of itself.