Word of the Week
June 12, 2021
Dianoia: Loving with All Your Head
And 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.
On Valentine’s Day, we send cards that feature hearts and flowers. A heart is shorthand for love, and your heart beats faster when that special someone whispers, “I love you with all my heart.”
We are not surprised when Jesus tells a questioner that the greatest of all commandments is the one that says, “Love God with all your heart.” That statement compresses all the demands of the Law into the one thing that God wants from us: our undivided loyalty to Him.
Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy, one of His favorite Old Testament books:
And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:5).
But there was a surprise in the way He cited the verse. He adds a phrase!
And 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.
This was no accident. He inserted a reference to “your mind” and all three Gospels record that addition (Matthew 22:37; Mark12:30; Luke 10:27).
Why did the Lord add that phrase about “loving God with all your mind”? And what does it mean? This week we will zero in on the Greek word for “mind.”
The Greek word dianoia was a common term that we often translate as “mind, mindset, understanding.” It occurs 13 times in the New Testament, but you can trace it far earlier in secular Greek. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle were famous for thinking deep thoughts, and they used dianoia to describe all sorts of mental activity.
Move to the Old Testament and you find that dianoia involves much more than mere intellectual speculation. It frequently appears as a translation for “heart” – not just the brain, but the whole person including your will and your emotions. That broader meanings sets the pace for the New Testament.
In other words, what you think affects what you feel, and it determines what you choose to do.
- Without Christ, the human dianoia is destructive.
Our minds were darkened and blinded by ignorance and rebellion (Ephesians 4:18).
Our minds were opposed to God because of our wicked works (Colossians 1:21).
Our minds impelled us to live by the desires of our flesh (Ephesians 2:3).
- With Christ, the human dianoia is transformed.
God made a covenant to put His laws in our minds, to write them on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16).
Paul prays that God will enlighten the eyes of our mind so we can truly know His plans for us (Ephesians 1:18).
The Son of God came to give us understanding, the ability to understand and know the true God (1 John 5:20)
Jesus added the command to love God with all our dianoia because He wants His Word to transform our thinking and then our entire life.
How do you love God with all your dianoia?
- Accept the fact that we must ask God to straighten out our minds. When we come to Christ for salvation, we must expect Him to revamp our worldview.
- Engage your mind to seek His truth. 1 Peter 1:13 tells us to “gird up the loins of your mind.” In other words, put your mind in gear, ready for action. Then on that basis you can choose to fix your hope on God’s promises.
- Remember what God has said and don’t allow yourself to release your hold on that truth (2 Peter 3:1).
- Act on what you know!
Constant growth in understanding God can lead to steady growth in maturity as long as we maintain consistent growth in obedience.
There are other Greek words for “mind,” and the ancient Greeks specialized in intellectual pursuits, so you could go much further in comparing the different synonyms. However, there is ample food for thought in the New Testament passages that use the word. We have cited almost all of them. A complete list would also include Luke 1:51.
Instead of following a question-and-answer format, I want to share an insight that surfaced this morning during a discussion at a men’s breakfast.
Romans 12:19 contains the phrase “leave room for God” (NIV). In context, it means “Don’t take revenge on anyone. Let God take care of it.”
Out of curiosity, I looked up the Greek phrase on my phone app (Blue Letter Bible) and found that it is literally “give a place” to God. Remarkably, the exact same phrase appears in Ephesians 4:27, which tells us not to allow the sun to go down on our anger, “and do not give the devil an opportunity” (literally, a place). The Greek phrase is “to give” (didōmi) “a place” (topos), sometimes rendered “foothold” or “opportunity.”
How interesting! When we are tempted to be angry and to take matters into our own hands, we have a choice facing us. We can give Satan a foothold in our lives that he can use for destructive purposes. Or we can give God a foothold that will enable Him to accomplish His gracious purposes.
What we do isn’t neutral. It opens the door to the tempter or to the Lord.
Music majors in college sometimes take classes like piano pedagogy – learning how to teach piano. But there is an earlier form of pedagogy that appears in the book of Galatians. Next week we will walk through first century culture to find out how God has taught His people through the centuries.
©Ezra Project 2021