Deuteronomy 6:4 -5 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Have you noticed we, as humans, have a natural desire to have something in our lives we are putting our everything into, something we are going “all in” on, so to speak? For many of us, this may not be anything in reality, but something we wish we could put our all into if we only had the time and energy. To make up for this, we often invest in fleeting and trivial things, such as discovering a new favorite food you then eat everyday, or a favorite animal you decorate everything with. It could be someone you meet, like a potential significant other, whom you suddenly are spending all your time with. Perhaps it’s an interest in a sports team, Star Wars, politics, or CrossFit, which finds its way into all of your conversations. It may even be a very admirable pursuit which you pour all your spare time into, like advocating for social justice. And then there are those for whom it is more substantial and all-consuming: think of the late Kobe Bryant and his incredible determination and commitment to be the best he could be in basketball.
Think about why this is. What is it in us that makes us want to go after something so hard? In pondering this question, I’ve come to realize it involves a grasping for identity. If you only dabble in an issue now, a talent then, a thing here, a person there, then who are you? What will you be known for or remembered for? How are you special and different from the next person? But if you have that one thing, something that fills your thoughts, conversation, time, and effort, people will associate you with it and remember you by it. You are the super athlete. You are the fashionista. You are the health enthusiast. You are the dog lover. It really doesn’t matter what it is, but it gives you identity. It sets you apart from others and helps you feel known. We all deeply long to be known!
Unfortunately most of these pursuits are insignificant and an unrealistic expectation for giving true identity. They take up too much of our life and end up hurting us by crowding out other important things. To prevent this, one might suggest the solution is balance. If we pursue these things with more moderation and prioritize appropriately, then there shouldn’t be those problems. I agree with that, yet balanced pursuits also leaves unfulfilled our intense desire for identity which initiated our passion in the first place. I don’t think this desire should be suppressed or denounced. God put it in us for a reason as it is a reflection of his character and actually leads us to seek him.
God doesn’t do anything half-heartedly. He doesn’t put little effort into his actions and leave them to turn out as they will.
Genesis 1:31a “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (ESV)
The word “very” in this verse is the Hebrew word מְאֹד, or me’od, which more accurately translated means “muchness, force, abundance, exceedingly”. The very first recorded thing God does in the Bible, the act of creation, he does with me’od: exceedingly, with all his muchness and force. There is no sense of restraint or balance in those words. God created the world, humans and all, without holding back, and called it me’od good! Exceedingly, abundantly, very, very good! We desire to do things with passion and fullness because we, created in God’s image, are striving to act as he does. Unlike God though, we are far more limited in our capacity, thus our tendency to channel this towards only one or a few things.
Since God has created us with this propensity, and all he created is good, it must also be meant for our good. Sadly our passions are often misdirected, leaving us empty or hurt. God warns us about seeking after idols, but again his solution isn’t to just do so in moderation. Instead, God gives us something of far greater worth that we are to pursue with our all.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (ESV)
The word translated “might” in verse 5 is also the Hebrew word me’od. God is telling us to do something extreme, without holding anything back. He’s not asking for something we tack on to our other passions and pursuits. He is telling us exactly what we should go all in on, and that is loving him. Our tendency is to first pursue nearly every other thing, but ultimately that passion and desire for identity is meant to lead us to the only thing that will fulfill it, God himself. Our love for God is the only lasting identity that will set us apart as children of the King and will help us see we are known by the only One who really matters.
Later in Scripture, God again demonstrates his me’od approach towards his work. He loves his “very good” creation so much that he sacrifices his only son, Jesus, in order to bring reconciliation between himself and us. Is there any greater expression of abundant, me’od love? Do we need any more reason to love God back with muchness, to the utmost, exceedingly? It’s for our good, for our fulfillment, for our identity, for his glory!
I John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.” (ESV)
Apply it! What have you been pouring yourself into, defining yourself by, or trying to find identity in apart from God? Consider it’s place in your life in God. You don’t necessarily have to give this up, as God gives us our unique passions and talents for a reason. Think of how you can use that thing as an expression of your love for God so people see God first and you/that thing second.