The Temptation to Compartmentalize
The first verse of the Bible that Linda and I taught our Children to memorize was Deuteronomy 6:4. The Jews call this verse the Shema, which means, “Hear!” The Shema forms an important part of Jewish morning and evening prayers, and is central to the Jewish confession of faith. The Shema’s essence is repeated in Deuteronomy 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-41.
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” – Deuteronomy 6:4 is not merely a theological description about the nature of God. This verse, and those that surround it, have a richly concrete and practical dimension to them. The Shema is the claim of Yahweh over and against other competing “deities”. It is the declaration of God’s righteous rule in the midst of the polytheistic religious environment of Israel’s day. It is a call for the people to be loyal to the One True God. This statement is therefore also an attack on heathen religious polytheism.
Let’s consider two direct and concrete applications we can draw from the Shema:
- It is a call for God’s Covenant people (including those who are the “grafted in ones” mentioned in Romans 11) to live their lives under the Lordship of the One True God of the Bible and not under the tyranny of many false gods.It is a practical call to God-centered living by rejecting the notion that different gods can rule over various spheres of human life— i.e. a god of the field, a god of the river, a god of fertility, a god of the sun, a god of business, a god of education, a god of recreation and so forth.
- As Christians, this second application is a compelling claim to unify our lives under the direction of our One True God. This has huge and truly radical implications for us today as we struggle to find new ground upon which to base our discipleship. Let me explain. In essence, the Shema is saying to us that we cannot live like there is one “god” for the church and another for politics. We can’t have one lord over our finances and business but another to govern our family. The truth is that many of us have a strong propensity to compartmentalize our lives don’t we?
To be honest, this is one of the most significant challenges in my own life. I can make Christ LORD in my study life, my witnessing life, or my family life, but at the same time live complacent and indifferent toward the relational and physical dimensions of my life. This is not okay!
Yahweh’s call for us is to integrate His truth and Person into every dimension of our being. In this way, following Jesus has and always should always be holistic in nature.
Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul was getting at when he exhorted,
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the LORD, not for men,” (Colossians 3:23).
Resist the temptation to compartmentalize today and ask the Lord for courage and wisdom to surrender ALL to Him!
 Deuteronomy 6:4-6 is also written on a tiny scroll, that is tucked into the Mezuzah and placed on the outer doorpost of a devote Jews home. Linda and I bought one for each of our children to place on the doorpost of their own homes and we have one on our doorpost.