Three statisticians decide to go deer-hunting. They make their plans, buy all of their equipment, map their course, and head off to worlds of optimism. Upon arriving at the area they stake their claim, and settle down for the main event. After a couple of days alone target wanders through the cross-hairs of opportunity. The first statistician draws his weapon, spots his mark, steadies, a-a-a-nd fires…missing 5 feet to the left of the beast. The second statistician steps up, makes a few calculations of his own, draws down upon the nervous animal, gently pulling the trigger, subsequently missing 5 feet to the right of the intended target. Confusion resonates, as the shot still rings in the air. As the animal grows ever more uneasy the troupe eyes one another until eventually the third statistician gazes at his friends, and then at the clearing dust, turns back to his friends, raising his arms in victory announcing, “We got him!” And they turn in celebration to go home.
Now, if you get the joke, there is a profound sense of comedy here as well as tragedy.
In abject failure they had sought to employ their level of argumentative statistician philosophy in order to augment reality; and faulty reasoning delivers a faulty conclusion. And so we laugh because we are amused that 3 people of such intellectual caliber could not see clearly enough to discern logical truth. On another level our hearts may be moderately sympathetic because these guys are no closer to realizing their goal than when they first began.
They claimed success and still came home with nothing to show for it. In fact, the men return with nothing more than a theoretical treatise on how the law of averages, and how the standard deviation and means helped them mathematically bag the big one, when in fact they are indeed empty-handed! They had gone deer-hunting and missed the point!
My concern is that we as followers of Christ, at times miss the point as well. The danger for us is that, in the midst of everything – we miss the main thing.
So, what is the main thing you may be asking?
This question was, in effect posed to Christ in Mark 12 by a well-intentioned lawyer or teacher (cf. Matthew 22). “‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”’” (Mark 12:28-30).
Jesus is quoting the Shema from Deuteronomy 6 which commands resolute and total devotion to loving God with our entirety; emotional, mental, spiritual and physical being – entirely and tirelessly.
Seems to be very little wiggle room in what that main thing is to be in our lives; wouldn’t you say?
We spend countless hours attending “Christian” conferences, Bibles studies, seminars, mission trips, spiritual gifts test, reading books, listening to sermons, teaching, attending school, and maybe even preparing sermons. And still. After the dust has settled from our chaotic pursuit of “ministry” we need to ask the question, “Do we love God; do we love God more?” Sadly, most of us would likely have to admit that we have fallen short; that we could’ve at least done better.
In Matthew, Christ adds, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’” (Matthew 22:39-40).
The main thing then is loving God purely, putting Him first and foremost in our lives; the second is an extension of that, and that is loving your neighbor. How? As yourself…as much as, or in the same way as you cherish yourself. Now, I am sure that all of us would confess that we have missed the bar on that one. Christ is not saying that the other things are unimportant – He is saying don’t miss the main point. All of the commandments are predicated upon, or rest upon these two commandments – yet the fundamental cornerstone of our existence… is loving God.
At the end of the day perhaps one of the most valuable lessons we can learn from the “statisticians” above is how not to equate activity with success, nor to think simply having the goal surrounded is obedience. If we read the Bible, feed the poor, and can recite the Bible in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek but do not love God, then our behavior is no better than that of the Pharisees whose hearts failed to love God.
Let me encourage you this day to pursue God, the God of the Bible, with your heart, soul, mind and strength.
He says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
Find Him. And may you love Him more and more each day.