Head-Heart-Hands | Foundation

The Greatest Commandment

The greatest commandment is to love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength (head, heart, hands).

One day someone asked Jesus this question: “What is the most important commandment?”

Jesus answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Jesus was quoting a passage from the Old Testament, written more than a thousand years earlier.

These words were part of a longer passage known as the shema​ (shuh-MAH) which is the ancient Hebrew word for “listen.” You can find the whole passage in Deuteronomy 6. Verses 4 and 5 say this:

Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD​ your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.

In the Bible, the word LORD​ (with all caps or small caps) represents the personal name of God. In the ancient world, the name was considered too holy to speak aloud. But the word is actually a name, Yahweh​ (YAH-way). So the verses could be read this way:

Listen, O Israel! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone. And you must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.

The one true God is personal. He shared his name with his people, showing that he wanted to have a close relationship with them.

The ancient people of God could confidently say, “Our God, Yahweh, is the only true God. He knows us, and we know him. He rescued us from slavery in Egypt. He cared for us while we wandered and traveled to our new home. Our God loves us. He is mighty. He is good.”

Today followers of Jesus can confidently say, “Our God is the only true God. He knows us, and we know him. He rescued us from sin through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. He sent his Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love and to transform us into his likeness. He loves us. He is mighty. He is good.”

The shema​ was at the heart of the Jewish faith, proclaiming God’s plan and purpose for his people. Jesus repeated the same words generations later, showing that even though society, culture, nations, kings, and rulers change over time, this thing never changes: God loves us, and we are called to fully love him in return with our whole self — head, heart, and hands.

In daily life, what does it mean to love God with our whole selves, with all our thoughts, attitudes, and actions? This is an important question for every follower of Jesus. It determines everything about how we live. Another word for that is discipleship.

Discipleship is not an add-on to following Jesus. It’s not “following Jesus 2.0” or “following Jesus for the hyper-religious” or “following Jesus for those who are slightly over-the-top-Jesus-freaky.”

Discipleship is just faithfully following Jesus every day (abiding in him — the lesson after this one) which leads to becoming more like Jesus (conforming to him — the lesson after abiding).

Find more Bible Project word study videos about the shema​ (including Lord, love, hear, soul, strength) here.


Begin with a conversation starter, then use these warm-up questions.

  • How would you describe what it means to follow Jesus?
  • What’s one way you’d like to grow as a follower of Jesus?
  • What do you think the words disciple​ and discipleship​ mean?

Read & Reflect

Read Deuteronomy 6:1-7 and Matthew 22:37-40.

  • What do you think about Jesus quoting ancient words from the Old Testament?
  • Why do you think Jesus said this was the​ most important commandment?
  • What is most challenging about following and loving God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
  • How are thoughts, attitudes, and actions connected? What happens when they’re not in sync with each other?
  • How can a person “love God” with their minds? their attitudes? their actions?

Watch the Head-Heart-Hands video and look at the graphic model.

The goal of discipleship is that our head, heart, and hands move closer and closer to Jesus. We do that by spending time in Scripture, prayer, worship, and fellowship (FORMATION lessons).

As our head, heart, and hands move closer to Jesus, we begin displaying a Christlike life, including humble service, deeper wisdom, generous hospitality, gracious forgiveness, faithful witness, patient endurance, sacred justice, and more (FRUITION lessons).

  • How do you most easily and naturally connect with Jesus: through your head (learning new things, reading and studying the Bible, etc.); through your heart (spending time alone with Jesus, worshipping with others, etc.); or through your hands (helping others, volunteering to serve, etc.)? Check out the Head-Heart-Hands Self-Assessment PDF.
  • How can you learn to connect with and love Jesus with your whole self?
  • What do you think it means to really love God? trust God? surrender to God? obey God?
  • Describe what it's like when your thoughts, attitudes, and actions aren't working together in sync. Describe what it's like when they are working together in sync.


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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2103 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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