The tenth cow
“Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” John 21:15
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” Matthew 22:37
“Everyone who has left…father or mother or children…for my sake…will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:29
These quotes, and others like them, come right from the mouth of Jesus. The message is clear, He wants first place in our hearts. And, by and large the Church has responded. We sing the hymns (“I’d rather have Jesus than anything…) say the slogans (Jesus first, others second, yourself last.”) and exhort one another to put God first.
But here is the question…do you really love Jesus more than your spouse, your children, your parents, etc? Can I truly look Peggy in the eye and say “I love Jesus more than you.”? Can you with the special people in your life?
Before you answer, let me share the story of a country pastor who visited a farmer in his congregation. Their discussion went something like this:
“John, if you had a million dollars would you give 10% to God?”
“Amen, Pastor, I sure would.”
“John, if you had ten cows, would you give one to God?”
“Now, Pastor, that is not fair. You know I have ten cows.”
In other words, it is easy to say something when you know you are never going to be called on to prove it. So I can sing that “I’d rather have Jesus than anything” and feel pretty smug about it. But do I really love Jesus more than Peggy? Well, I have my moments. There are times that I feel so in love with Jesus that it makes me cry, usually when I am singing the songs that include those amazing pledges of love. But if I am truly honest, I don’t think I have enough of those moments. There are times when, if I said that, I’d be lying.
So why does Jesus repeatedly say things like that? Why does He remind us that He wants that tenth cow, or frankly, all the cows? Well, I see two options.
Option A is that He knows He needs to continually shame us into loving Him more or we won’t love Him enough. This is, as I see it, the law option.
But there is an option B, the grace option. Jesus knows very well that I do not and cannot love Him as much as He deserves to be loved. He knows too that I want to love Him like that. But when we fail, and He knows we will, we get the opportunity to think about those verses I quoted at the start. As you look at them in context they are not the prelude to Him walking off in a huff. They merely enable us to see clearly that even in our imperfect love His marvelous grace is sufficient and His love never fails.
I think I am going with option B. In that way I can sing the love songs to Jesus without guilt and shame. I am singing my intent, not my reality.