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The One Thing

May 21st, 2010 · 6 Comments

Remember the movie “City Slickers”? Three guys facing middle age and accompanying crises, wanting to reassess their lives, embark on a two week cattle drive – a sort of hyper-dude-ranch, real cowboy experience for ‘city slickers’. During the drive, one city slicker, ‘Mitch’ rides along with tough as nails cowboy ‘Curly’, and Curly shares with Mitch the secret to life, “One Thing.” Once you find the “One Thing” in life, nothing else matters.

In the real world, however, Curly’s philosophy on life (which, incidentally, is about as good as one’s philosophy on life can get if they don’t understand the real “One Thing”) falls short. But Curly was right about one thing – there really is “One Thing” that is the key to how you experience every other thing, good or bad, in life.

Last week I told you that I was going to share with you over the coming weeks twelve keys to a truly successful life. And I told you that, push come to shove, only two were absolutely essential to making our time here on earth mean anything. But out of those two, the first thing, the “One Thing” drives and shapes every other aspect of our lives, every other element of our experience. The “One Thing” is the only thing ultimately that will determine whether or not our lives can be counted as a ‘success’ from an eternal perspective.

So, as Mitch inquired of Curly, “What is the ‘One Thing’?”

About two thousand years ago a group of religious leaders asked Jesus the same question.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:36-38)

You probably already knew that, didn’t you? After the big build up about the ‘One Thing’ telling you something you already knew might seem kind of anti-climactic. Even though you know that I’m right, that “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” really is the ‘One Thing’; maybe you were hoping for something newer or fresher … or maybe just something easier.

That’s the problem. Everybody is always looking for a newer, flashier ‘one thing.’ That’s what the success and human potential gurus trade in – trying to convince us that there’s a newer, sexier, flashier, easier ‘one thing’, and we can buy it from them. But there isn’t. There’s only ‘One Thing’; it’s been around a long time and it’s very costly, but it’s not for sale.

If you’re still thinking that, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”; although a lovely Bible verse, is a little abstract as a declaration from which to gauge the success of your existence, let me tell you the whole story.

When Jesus answered the religious leaders, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He was quoting what Moses had told the children of Israel some 1300 years earlier, just before they were to enter the Promised Land. He had just given them the ten rules for a successful life in the Land and now he was giving them the ‘One Thing’ from God – the single rule that would make the other ten possible and meaningful. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

I keep quoting that rule because I want it to sink in, but I’m not doing it justice. I’m writing and you’re reading in English, but Moses and Jesus didn’t speak English. The language of Moses was Hebrew and Jesus spoke in Aramaic (his words were recorded in Greek) and the language in which they originally communicated this ‘One Thing’ went a little deeper than the English words we’re using to translate them today. Let me take it apart for you.

‘Love’ – the Hebrew word Moses used was ‘ahab. It means ‘to have an affection based on a close relationship, sometimes in comparison to other persons with a lesser relationship – have a desire for – focus on a preference of one thing over another. Jesus gave deeper meaning to “Love the Lord your God,” when he answered the religious leaders by using the word ‘agapao’. Agapao goes beyond affection into the will. Agapao is a love of attention and action; it spurs us to focus our attention and will on the One we love and act on behalf of that love.

‘Lord you God’‘Lord’ – ‘Yahweh’ in Hebrew – is a euphemism for ‘Adonai,’ the personal name of the one true God – this name focuses on two attributes of God, His sure existence and His relationship with a chosen people. ‘God’ in Hebrew is ‘Elohim’ – the object of worship, the one true God as opposed to lesser gods.

‘all’‘kôl’ in Hebrew; ‘holos’ in Greek; ‘completely, the totality of any mass.’ It doesn’t mean on ‘just on Sunday’ and it doesn’t mean ‘a big part of my life’; it means every atom of my body and every moment of my consciousness. It means all.

‘heart’‘lebab’ in Hebrew; ‘kardia’ in Greek. This is the innermost organ – the core that pumps lifeblood into the human body. This is the very center and essence of everything thing that makes us human beings; our thoughts, our feelings, our choices.

‘soul’‘nephesh’ in Hebrew; ‘psuche’ in Greek. This is the vitality and essence of life – it is the thing that departs when one’s body dies. ‘Nephesh’ has its roots in ‘breath’; as when God ‘breathed’ life into Adam – literally ‘the breath of God.’ Your soul is the ‘God’ part of your being; it’s what allows you to be a child of His and what lifts you above the animals, and it’s what puts you accountable to the God that breathed it into you. Whatever choice you make in this life, your soul will enjoy (or be left holding the bag) in the next.

‘strength’‘meh-ode’ in Hebrew; Jesus used the word ‘dianŏia’ or ‘mind’. The closest English word we have to ‘meh-ode’ is ‘vehement’‘showing or arousing intense feeling.’ It’s pretty close in meaning to the word ‘violent’‘the exercise or production of very great force.’ The closest picture I can give you for the proper meaning of ‘meh-ode’ is that of a pot of water at full boil or an Olympic athlete at the precise moment of his most intense effort. ‘Dianŏina’, the word Jesus used, is everything that encompasses your deepest thoughts, imagination and understanding – your entire mental capacity.

If I was going to re-write ““Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” in the Steve Amplified Version it would go something like this:

“You shall have a relationship with, a preference and affection for, above everything and everyone else, the Lord, the one true, surely existing God, Who has chosen you to have a relationship with Him. And this love, affection, preference, relationship shall be with every atom of your being – everything that makes you fully human and with every ounce of life God has breathed into you, with your entire body, mind and will and with your entire soul – the part of you that inhabits your body and goes with you into eternity. And you shall demonstrate this love, this relationship, this affection in every fiber of your will, your effort, your energy, attention and focus. You will live out this love to the very pinnacle of your possibility.”

Wow! That’s pretty radical.

Yup. It’s supposed to be.

Like I said, it’s very costly, but it’s not for sale.

Everything else in your life – your own desires, your spouse, your children, your parents, your job, your status, your possessions – everything else – is subject to and seen through the lens of this one single relationship. This first and greatest commandment from God is the primary building block of human existence – your existence – as it was meant to be. Get this ‘One Thing’ right and everything else follows along like the cars of a train.

Next week we’ll cover the second ‘essential’ key to a truly successful life. It’s related to the first (isn’t everything?). Jesus said that if you got the ‘One Thing’ right and got the second thing right – even if everything else in your life went wrong – you’d still be considered a success in His eyes. That’s pretty cool.

Until next week – focus on the ‘One Thing.’

Goodnight Curly,

Tags: agape · love · Site News · success

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ellen // May 21, 2010 at 8:21 am

    I really liked this one, Steve. Wonder how many people achieve this in life? One would have to be Jesus, wouldn’t he? I’m trying but far from perfect. Ln

  • 2 John Hoben // May 21, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Amen, Steve – you’ve articulated the Great Commandment in a very real and clear way. Thanks for all you do, to His glory alone!

  • 3 anna // May 21, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    I am very glad I took the time to read this. I needed it. Very well written, Thank you.

  • 4 dave // May 22, 2010 at 8:42 am

    pretty good.
    I was thinking you should write christian sci-fi. you could start with private missionary efforts to NASA multinational inner solor system colonies in the 22nd century…..of course they’d need an astronaut version of the New Testament, which should have a truly long techno name, but would be affectionately called the gospel according to Steve, for it’s soon to be martyed author.

  • 5 Sharon // May 22, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Steve,
    Very well written,and such a timely reminder.
    It is hard to go one whole day focusing on “One Thing” , but what a great challenge.!
    I look forward to the coming weeks.
    Thank you.

    Sharon.
    Sydney, Australia.

  • 6 Steve S. // May 28, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Thanks all for the good word. I’m looking forward to the coming weeks as well.
    And to Dave – those who don’t know you may consider you a bit weird; those of us who do know you would set them straight … I think. Thanks for the martyrdom vote, I’ll take it under consideration.

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