Curly Washburn told Mitch Robbins that the secret of life is to find one thing. He didn’t elaborate but as the movie and its sequel roll on Mitch figures it out. Find the one thing that makes you happy and stick to it.
Is this advice from an old movie, City Slickers, good advice? According to the world it us sound and solid. You can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself is more than just lyrics from the song, Garden Party, by John Fogerty. It is an anthem of the modern world.
What if I told you that both these bits of advice parallel the Holy Word of God? They don’t point us in the right direction but they have the same idea of focus and intent to walk our own path in a world telling us who we are
Jesus told us that all the prophets and laws in the Bible can be summed in a simple two sentence statement and that we are to focus on that. Although Curly wasn’t that far off with his focus on one thing idea, he left it up to Mitch to decide for himself what that one thing was.
Jesus tells us what it ought to be. And Mr. Fogerty sang about not trying to please everybody which again is kind of close to the Biblical idea that we are to please God above trying to please others. So, what did Jesus say to do that would turn these self-centered notions of focus on what makes you happy and pleasing only yourself?
Jesus was asked by a teacher of the law what is the greatest commandment of all. This teacher was a wise man who would have studied the law intently. If anyone knew the laws of God it aware of the simplicity and power of his words. At first, he simply listened to the religious leaders trying to trap Jesus with words. Then when he understood the wisdom of Jesus asked him his question.
He is a good role model for us today in that often we rush head first without list of wants and needs. Instead of studying the wisdom of God we try to trap God into giving us what we want or try to interpret the Bible to fit our notions. This teacher studied Jesus and then asked. Jesus’s response to his question is legendary. It is used in sermons and quoted so frequently that perhaps we are may have become so familiar with it that it has lost its simplicity and power in our hearts and minds.
In Mark 12: 30-31, His answer is recorded.
It is interesting that Jesus didn’t just stop at the first one but added the second. These two can not be separated from one another and together they tell us what to focus on. The answer is love. Not just any old love like love of pizza or love of cars. But Godly love, first for God above all else. The second commandment Jesus tells the man is not to please ourselves but to love others. The focus is love.
That is the one thing upon which we are to focus our attention. When we love God above all else, when we really feel his love for us, we start loving ourselves in a healthy way. We start wanting the best for ourselves. Not material things or sinful desires, Self-love is a good thing and only comes when we accept the Love of God. And when we truly love God with all we have, we open up a way of life that is so much more free and full of possibilities, When we love others with this love, we want this for them and for them to be set free and to experience the higher things in life. Love frees.
Take some advice from an old cowboy and a singer. Find that one thing and focus on it and don’t try to please everyone. Instead, focus on loving God and focus on loving everybody.
Andy Becker is a retired counselor and author of The Travelers, a fictionalized account of spiritual warfare (available on Amazon). He and his wife, Stella, lead Lighthouse Ministries which offers love, hope, and encouragement to one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods, North Central Regina. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca