"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18, and Exodus 20:1-17
It is clear for us Christians, and for our Jewish brothers and sisters, that the basis for living our faith is loving God and loving neighbor. This man is both quoting the Old Testament and summing up the first 4 Commandments as Love of God and the second 6 Commandments as Love of Neighbor. Practically, in our lives, it means striving for generosity and avoiding selfishness. Anyone who lets someone into traffic or ahead of them in line at the grocery store, holds the door for a stranger, or helps someone who is elderly, disabled, or struggling in anyway understands this principle and is living it out. If any part of one's earnings or time goes to charitable giving, service, or helping those in need, that is generosity. Generosity, especially to those who cannot pay you back, is the opposite of self-interest. You have only the possibility of reputation to gain and what you do with that recognition is your witness.
Our lives as disciples are about making those daily decisions of self-interest versus generosity. Humility is thinking of ourselves less, not less of ourselves. Putting others first in a spirit of generosity means our decision-making becomes a lifestyle of generosity. We cannot choose to be generous only some of the time. Being generous with our time to our kids but stingy when we tip our waiter is not a spirit or lifestyle of generosity. It must be a part of us in every decision. And the more power and wealth we have, the more powerful each decision becomes. Decisions about how we spend our money, the cars we drive, the energy and resources we consume, where we travel, they have greater impact than those of our brothers and sisters in the developing world. One of the greatest decisions we make, is to vote.
Those of us with the right to vote in our country are among the most powerful people in the world. Our votes influence one of the most powerful militaries the world has ever seen and therefore, the world's resources, land, and people. Do we vote out of self-interest of ourselves, our families, and like-minded friends in local and national elections, or do we remain faithful disciples who vote within a lifestyle of generosity and selfless love for neighbor? Do we vote for just our blood-related brother and sister and next door neighbor or for all our brothers and sisters and a biblical definition of neighbor - those who need compassion? We cannot call ourselves disciples of Christ, if we are generous with our time, our talents, and our treasures, but not our vote. That is not love. We become clanging cymbals and noisy brass, people of partial faith. As believers, it is never enough to vote in our self-interest, especially if we are overly-represented in our government by people who look just like us. I pray we live each day this year as faithful and generous disciples, perhaps especially when we are asked to vote.