Monday, March 25th
Limit: to assign certain limits to; to restrict the bounds or limits; to curtail or reduce in quantity or extent
Mark 12:28-31 (NRSV)
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘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 mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
My pastor-friend and I were finding humor after a church seminar years ago. In a heated debate, one man had claimed that the Bible instructs us to do “everything in moderation.” We knew that this was not a Bible passage, and later we began improvising such silly statements as “Love Jesus… in moderation.” “Praise God… but not too often.” “Give to others… just not too much.” Of course these are not true! We are to love God with ALL of our heart, soul, and might. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. There should be no limit to our love for God and others.
Still, in other instances we are called to limit ourselves…
Some limits help us increase in love for God. Limiting our food or other forms of fasting can magnify our need for God and work to draw us closer to God. Limiting our social or recreational activities in order to worship, study, and pray regularly gives us more opportunities to praise God and grow in faith. Limiting our own earthly desires allows the Spirit to fill us with more of God’s desire.
Other limits enable us to demonstrate genuine love for others. Limiting our spending helps us to have more funds available to share with those in need. Setting limits on our work hours enables us to spend time with loved ones or to find time to help out someone in need of assistance. Actively limiting our speech helps us to refrain from gossip or reacting with hurtful words.
In addition, there are limits that help us to be better stewards of all of God’s creation. Limiting ourselves to using greener or reusable products helps maintain our environment. Limiting our intake of unhealthy foods honors our God-given bodies. Limiting our desire for more or better possessions enables us to share our resources and provide for all of God’s people.
In all of these, we find that when we set limits on ourselves- our own needs, desires, natural tendencies, worldly expectations, or successes- these limits open us up to more of God. Limits become a discerning gate that keeps our selfish ways contained but allows the in-pouring of God’s love and the outpouring of our love. Limits are good boundaries for life and yet, how often do we push these limits? And when we do, how often do we exceed or go beyond them?
This Lent, may we be more mindful of the limits that are healthy for us and all of God’s creation, the limits we heed for the well-being of others, and the limits that perfect us as followers of Christ. May we limit all that is needful- in order to expand all that is so very good.
All definitions are excerpted from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/
Photo credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash