The beauty of freedom in United States of America includes the freedom to obtain an education. Thomas Jefferson advocated public education for the betterment of the country and I fully agree with this vision. Education is valuable not just to the individual but to the society as well. An educated citizenship results in a healthier more productive and prosperous culture. Lack of resources including food, shelter, finances, and education drag a culture down. Likewise, an abundance of the same resources creates a more stable society. It is education that enables a people to be stronger, more creative, and more united.
Although the right of an education is granted to all Americans, compulsory education has been distorted to an entitlement rather than a right. I once was a high school graphic arts teacher. My class was a vocational class, a trades class. No one expected to be challenged intellectually while learning the printing business. But once students began to apply the trade of the graphic arts, they quickly realized that a foundational education in mathematics and imaginative learning were crucial to creating commercial art and printed pieces. This example goes to show that education is more than just getting a job. An education is the development of the human mind and personality of the student. All knowledge, whether scientific, mathematical, literary, artistic, or mechanical, is valuable knowledge that interacts with all areas of society and work.
The right of an education for American citizens has expanded beyond the fundamentals of learning to the public universities and colleges where all citizens of the state have a right to attend these institutions. Yet what we now have in many public universities, but not all, is not an attitude of the right to an education rather to an entitlement to a degree. Russell Kirk reflects this sentiment when he says, “every man and woman and intellectual king or queen, with an Oxbridge degree!” His comments are sarcastic. Yet he fully agrees that the original intention of the University has been changed to a factory mentality. The original intent of the University was, “to develop right reason and imagination, for the sake of the person in the sake of the Republic.” If then education benefits the nation, it behooves the nation to ensure the integrity of learning.
While the dream of a college degree is admirable, the needs of everyday living to obtain food, shelter, clothing and finances is a true reality that cannot be ignored. The answer to improving education is not then to supply the financial needs of all citizens in order for them to pursue education. Again, the root of all problems in education rest in an entitlement mentality. If citizens are then entitled to be cared for this will not help the state of higher education. Those who work hardest are those who benefit most from the labor. Hunger is a great motivator. Ironically physical hunger will motivate one to work in order to satisfy the physical need. In order to work to satisfy the need, one must also learn and be educated in order to provide basic human needs. So the answer to all higher education problems is not to give away an education, but to make this occasion desirable. If a student is not hungry a student will not work.
I must admit that I have benefited from the grace of many teachers in my educational career beginning in kindergarten and continuing in my current doctoral program. This statement must come first in order to understand the opinion that standards must be in place and expectations enforced to bring value to an education. Academic standards that expect students to push further and obtain quality, will in turn cause hunger in the mind. Lax standards merely breed slothful mentality resulting in entitlement.
John Dewey has been criticized for his philosophy of education in that education has become a religion under his tutelage. Writing on Dewey, Christopher Dawson says concerning education, “it exists simply to serve democracy; and democracy is not a form of government, it is a spiritual community, based on the participation of every human being in the formation of social values.” John Dewey’s influence on compulsory education shifts the very nature of education away from strengthening the mind to strengthening the society alone. While it is true that an educated populace makes for a stronger society, the education citizens receive should be that education which liberates the intellect rather than conforming the soul. If then John Dewey has changed the concept of education so radically, perhaps it is imperative to undo his philosophy.
It is perhaps too late to influence the current generation of students to radically turn around the direction of higher education as it is today. Yet if problems exist to the extent that damage has been done, it is the responsibility of current scholars to begin to speak on and write on the problems at hand. In offering a solution, I would argue, in the spirit of Dawson, that motivation for higher learning begins in the primacy of the development of the mind. The atmosphere in which one lives at a young age does affect later learning. However this is not to say that the youngest mind is the only area of influence. I myself have been introduced to and inspired by many great teachers in my higher education years. But in order to redirect the ship, the rudder must be turned.
Influence on a society begins with the highest thinkers. Those thinkers must motivate current scholars, who will be future leaders, in ways of living apart from the current state of mind-numbing entertainment. The entitlement philosophy shapes not only education, but the way in which a society exists. If computerized ways of doing dominate the way one thinks, then the way one thinks will reflect the instant information atmosphere that computers create. Although I am grateful for the advancement of computer technology in the areas of research and accessibility to books that are no longer in print, I must caution myself often in depending on the search engine results as the top possibility for all of my research and thinking. True humane thinking requires time to ponder information in order for it to become knowledge. If instant information is then replacing what has traditionally been known as knowledge, it is important to delay the effects of the computer until after one’s mind has begun to grow in rational and imaginative thinking. It is the lack of creative problem-solving, not just in education, but also in normal everyday living, that has affected the way education is approached. One no longer is required to solve the problem of everyday living needs like obtaining food, clothes, yard and home maintenance, and even cooking recipes. Everything is available at the touch of the keyboard. If we do not know how to bake an apple pie, a computer can tell us how within just a few seconds. No research needed. No problem to solve exists.
Perhaps the solution to the decline of higher education standards, rests in a fundamental shift in the approach to everyday living. This can only begin at home. Dire circumstances in the economy and in the culture, will require many to go back to the basics. But as long as problems have immediate answers, solutions will evade the seeker. If immediate answers substitute solutions, higher thinking will not be necessary. I do not propose that issues that need to be resolved can be resolved by one opinion alone. But in a time of history where all opinions matter and no opinion is more true than others, I wonder if any solution can be widely accepted as the best direction to begin solving the problem.
In a postscript thought, I do believe that making education available for all is a very important freedom. But I must clarify my opinion, education is not an entitled right. All education is valuable. But the learning of an economic trade is not the same as higher liberal arts learning. If one’s aptitude is more in line with vocational training, that person must be given the freedom to choose that route. While if one’s aptitude is more in line with higher academic learning, that person must also be given the freedom to pursue that route. But it is not the role of the state to determine who is eligible for a particular trade or education. The role of the state must be that which enables all the opportunity to explore and pursue what is best for their skill set. This can easily be done while also providing academic standards that do not discriminate. I do not believe that state-funded education is always the best, but it is necessary and important. Those without financial means to a higher education must climb through the state schools in order to get there. I am grateful for my state sponsored education. This was the step up I needed to pursue higher forms of thought.
Gamble, Richard M., ed. The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007.
Kirk, Russell. “Humane Learning in the Age of the Computer” in The Wise Men Know What Things are Written on the Sky (Washington: Regnery Gateway, 1987), 90-100.
Kirk, Russell. “The Conservative Purpose of a Liberal Education” in Classical Teacher, Spring 2007.
“Every analysis begins from things which are finite, or defined, and proceeds in the direction of things which are infinite, or undefined.” 
— Hugh of St. Victor —
Reading a difficult work is always worthwhile. Yet in order to benefit from the mental exercise, one must learn to analyze a text to understand and then explain the meaning of the text. The reward of this effort always leads to a greater awareness of that which is unknown and can never be fully known. Exposition of a work of great value brings the student from the defined finite knowledge to the higher undefined infinite mystery. Illumination of what is hidden in great works is the duty of great scholars.
All Great Books have a deeper truth to the text than can be attained through first reading. What is required of the scholar is the mastery of analysis, methods of discernment, that lead one deeper into the meaning of the text and thus higher to the truths of God. Hugh of St. Victor taught in his De Sacramentis,
“All the arts of the natural world subserve our knowledge of God, and the lower wisdom — rightly ordered — leads to the higher.” 
Exposition means to explain. When great ideas are rightly ordered the meaning of the text is revealed through work and deeper meaning leads to a higher truth.
Exposition is the duty of the clergy in that the church, and those outside the ecclesia, are shown what God says. Where the clergy exposit Scripture, academia exposits Great Works of wisdom. Rhabanus Maurus emphasizes the duty of the clergy in broadly understanding Scripture through also understanding language and forms of expression. “A knowledge of these things is proved to be necessary in relation to the interpretation of those passages of Holy Scripture which admit of a twofold sense; an interpretation strictly literal would lead to absurdities.” Absurd reading of Scripture leads one not to the infinite, but to the finite. It is those things infinite that require accurate exposition to fully grasp.
Hugh of St. Victor taught; “Exposition includes three things: the letter, the sense, and the inner meaning.” This three step process is the model to accurate exposition of both Scripture and Great Books. Often the higher meaning of a work is sensed in an initial reading of the text. Knowing how to read the text itself, through language and grammar, is the first form of knowledge that must be mastered well in order to exposit well. The medium of words is a mastered skill that must be understood. A plumber must know pipes and water flow in order to master the art of plumbing. Likewise an expositor must know grammar and language well in order to read and exposit what is read well. In reading the text, one then has an initial sense of the meaning of the text. This may not be an absolute formula of meaning. But the sense is an intuition based on previous skills of grammar and language and a greater sense of feeling about the piece. The inner meaning of a work is best understood by both the science of language and the enigmatic sense, or feel, of a text. Neither aspect alone grants a full exposition of a work. The work of the finite individual through grammar and language studies, combined with the hidden feeling of the infinite source behind the work leads one ultimately to the higher mystery of a great idea within a great work.
In summary, exposition is that effort which leads one to grasp, or merely taste, the higher infinite meaning of a great idea or work by both finite and enigmatic means. Defined absolutes of grammar and language are ordered by inspiration of, or directly by, undefined uncertainties that lead to a higher meaning beyond the lower mind. Exposition is work. But is also led by feeling. A sense of what is read and known ultimately leads to the prize of the inner meaning of a work. This is the purpose of exposition and analysis and the role of the scholar.
 Richard M. Gamble, The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007), p. 261.
 Ibid, p. 255.
 Ibid, p. 251.
 Ibid, p. 260.
“Nevertheless, with every falsehood scrapped,
let everything you’ve seen be manifest,
and where they’ve got the mange, let them go scratch.”
— Dante, Paradiso, xvii.127
My hand was screaming with pain. The blood flowed more freely than I wished to witness as my good hand grasped the wounded limb with pressure to stop the flow. I had been laying hardwood floor in my new home and was nearing the end of a long project. One more row of tongue and groove boards and the entire first floor was finished. We could move in by Christmas. Exhausted, yet excited, I had a unique piece to cut that would go down around an A/C floor vent. As I ran the board over the table saw blade, a kickback caused the wood to fly up and backward. My hand came with the board and scraped the circular saw leaving a deep gash in my left palm just below my thumb. The shock started with numbness.
Painful experiences follow false assumptions of safety. But the value of truth is often not appreciated until after what was assumed to be easy becomes obvious as a falsehood. The value of painful memories brings greater appreciation and clarity to what was true all along. Rushing to judgment inevitably leads to pain after the fact. Ironically, truth is sweetest as truth is never in a rush to be discovered. Truth is always present, even amidst the hurry and assumed ease of the false.
Paradise is appealing. No pain. No suffering. All is beautiful. All is perfect. But in order to understand paradise, we must deal with pain and suffering. Otherwise, paradise is not valued as it should be. Paradise contrasted with suffering is more sweet than sour. Dante’s journey to Paradise is recognized as a journey of discovery. Although irritants cause one to scratch and bleed, it is only through the misery that recovery occurs and truth is understood.
“Nevertheless, with every falsehood scrapped,
let everything you’ve seen be manifest,
and where they’ve got the mange, let them go scratch.
For if your words are sharp at the first taste,
they’ll leave behind a living nourishment
when they have been digested at the last.” 
The lesson emphasized in Dante’s prose is that to appreciate and revel in the beauty of Paradise, the truth about falsehoods and pain must also be understood. There is truth in defining the false. The truth of falsehoods is deception. To not learn this truth is to believe a lie and that is not truth. Paradise is then only realized in discovering the truth about false wisdom.
The celestial city on the hill is an image desired by Christians throughout the history of the church and the appeal to such a distant objective is the future hope of deliverance from suffering and pain where we are now. The truth of human existence is that pain and sorrow are prevalent. Yet the hope of the faithful is that someday the suffering and pain will cease. The truth of the gospel is that without the pain we endure, the passion and desire for Paradise would not be present, or at least not as strong as it could be. Desire for life without lies, deceit, and suffering is what drive the Christian on to seek Paradise. David Lyle Jeffrey in discussing the struggles of interpretation of Scripture writes about the journey to the celestial city;
“By contrast, the celestial Jerusalem toward which the faithful travel through history cannot be reached or conquered by human effort. One must set out in faith, joining the vulnerable company of the blessed en route, but in the end the New Jerusalem is not so much to be attained (by works) as granted (by grace), as it descends.” 
Along the journey of knowledge and wisdom, experience teaches humility. Pain and suffering shape the journey in ways that I wish they would not. But it is in the mistakes learned through the deceit of lies and false truths that I see more clearly, and appreciate more honestly, the glory of Paradise. My Lord suffered much more than I suffer.
Although never deceived by the promise of lies, Jesus did gain stronger authority by standing against false truth. In his conviction after an illegal trial, Jesus willingly suffered so that I would not be enslaved to the lies of sin and death. Slave trader and converted pastor John Newton knew the power of grace after living a life of tragic mistakes and penned the simple but profound hymn Amazing Grace. In one of his sermons he preached,
“We call ourselves the followers and servant of him who was despised of men, and encompassed with sorrows. And shall we then ‘seek great things for ourselves,’ as if we belonged to the present world, and expected no portion beyond it? or shall we be tremblingly [sensitive] to the opinion of our fellow-creatures and think it a great hardship if it be our lot to suffer shame for his sake, who endured the cross, and despised the same for us?” 
Although I do not applaud misunderstood ideas as an academic method of discovering the truth, I do recognize the value of failure in appreciating the truth. When mistaken ideas are a way of knowing, the only result is destruction. Yet, when mistaken ideas are understood in light of what is true, then strength in wisdom leads the sojourner further up the path to Paradise.
I look forward to the day when table saws no longer inflict pain as the result of my mistaken sense of safety. But I do not regret the lesson learned and the respect I now have for the process of building. The journey to completion contains many lessons along the way that will not be pleasant. The journey to Paradise is not an easy one, but nonetheless, the journey is a valuable one.
 Alighieri Dante, Paradise, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (New York: Modern Library, 2007), [Canto xvii, 127-132, p. 187].
 David L. Jeffrey, Houses of the Interpreter: Reading Scripture, Reading Culture (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009), p. 34.
 Ibid, p. 84
On September 7, 2013, I participated in a colloquium about conversational learning with faculty and other students of Faulkner University’s Great Books Honors College. Before the colloquium, participants read selections from Mortimer Adler’s, How to Speak, How to Listen and Plato’s Republic.
The Why Behind the What
“That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been;
and God seeks what has been driven away.”
— Ecclesiastes 3:15 —
“Poets keep their eyes focused on the ideal truth, which is a universal idea,…”
— Giambattista Vico, De nostri 1709 —
My family often looks at me with strange stares. Sometimes I think the lot of a modern-day father is misunderstanding. But in my case, I tend to look at the world in a deeper way than my teenagers. Their world is full of adolescent angst and little to do with serious interaction with the greater world outside their own. I tend to look for deeper, more serious, meaning by focusing my attention on the wider world beyond the immediate circumstance. But my responsibility as a homeschool dad is to open the minds of my teenagers to truths bigger than their immediate reality.
I watched their mother train their younger minds in the past in the classical tradition of home school education. We have as a family trudged through the first two stages of the trivium. Gaining knowledge through memorization and repetition, then gaining understanding of knowledge through dialectic reasoning. Now my children are maturing into the final years of the trivium and it has fallen to me to guide them, with their mother’s help, in the final stage of poetic wisdom. The challenge I face is to overcome the absolutes of our scientifically critical culture to engage my teenagers in thinking poetically which is also known as wisdom. I now wish to inspire my teenagers to understand and eloquently express the why behind the what. In order to do so, they must first grasp what it means to think and express ideas in a poetic way.
Poetry is that language that often eludes the reader if preparation of the mind is not exercised in the ways of eloquence. The word poetry, is derived from the Greek poiesis, (ποίησις), to create or make things. Yet the result of what is made in the spirit of poiesis is that which is done in excellence. It is through, poiesis, that what is made points to the why behind all that is made.
The struggle many have in comprehending, much less expressing a thought that is beautifully rendered, is that in modern times the mind is often not exercised in poetic ways of thinking. Poetic thought, that is higher thought, is then the model for all newly formed ideas to be seen as truth. It is poetic thought that reaches for, and points to, truth rather than falsity. “Truth is one, probabilities are many, and falsehoods numberless.” Man is blinded to the truth and to reach beyond falsehoods to reach the one truth, that is God, requires the ability to think poetically. This can only be determined by focusing on ideal truth and the best way to do this is to be immersed in the ideas of the great thinkers of the past.
The quest for truth begins with the great thinkers of western culture to begin to form one’s own eloquent thoughts. The creation of ideas is not an enterprise that can be remade in succeeding generations without the wisdom of proceeding thinkers. What was made before, poiesis, is the foundation of all that is eloquent. If then, great ideas are the inspiration of thought, not a substitute for thought itself, then it is reasonable that for one to think independently, one should learn to make new ideas by the example of those who have done so in eloquent ways before.
The inspirational result of poetic thought is humility to the reader. Qohelet, the preacher, expresses with poetic insight the truth of all things made.
“What gain has the worker from his toil?
I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” [Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 ESV]
The first thought in this text is that the worker, that is all men, have work to do. This work can be toilsome and unappealing. Yet, the preacher further clarifies that all that man is busy with is that which God has given them to be busy. It is God’s design and sovereign choice to bless men with work. The preacher chooses the words, “He has made…” to describe what is beautiful. That which is made, poiesis, is only understood as beautiful as God himself has made it so. This beauty is made and thus is poetic in design. Likewise, the preacher writes, in a poetic way, that all that humanity is allotted to do is not burdensome but beautiful as God has made it so. The approach of man to his work can either be toilsome or grateful. The result of what man does, or makes, is then either drudgery or poetic. To understand this truth results in humility for men who see the awesome creation of what God has given them to be busy with. It takes a lifetime to comprehend it as this truth is beyond finite understanding.
James V. Schall undergirds the necessity of humility in thinking. “In this sense, the beginning of wisdom is a small dose of humility, of our willingness to acknowledge how much was known and learned before we ourselves ever were.”  This truth is evident in the greatest of thoughts that survive time and maintain influence. All that is worthy of doing, all that is worthy of thinking comes from humility that nothing is greater or more worthy than those ideas that God himself establishes as truth. The creator of knowledge itself, the ability to reason within man, is not humanity’s creation. The greatest thoughts are those that humanity thinks about the one who created the ability to think those thoughts. Humility is what keeps thoughts in proper perspective. Schall further explains that truth is the highest of thoughtful inspiration. “No one will seek the highest if he believes that there is no truth, that nothing is his fault, and that government will guarantee his wants.” 
In Plato’s Ion, Socrates applauds the rhapsode Ion, the professional reciter of poetry, in his profession. The teacher points to a very important part of Ion’s skill in that the rhapsode not only mimics the words of the poets, but that he also knows the poet’s thoughts.
“A rhapsode must come to present the poet’s thought to his audience; and he can’t do that beautifully unless he knows what the poet means. So this deserves to be envied.” 
Likewise, the poetic knowledge of the the great authors of western thought are not merely to be recited, they are to be expressed as if the meanings are known. Knowledge is meaningless unless it is gained through hard work after the auspice of poiesis.
In summary, poiesis, is that which is worked out and made for beautiful purposes. It is through great books that one learns the beauty of great ideas expressed with great words, by great thinkers. Poiesis, the meaning behind the word poetry, is not that which is undertaken in drudgery. My role as home school dad and teacher is to show my teenagers that great thinking does require great effort. But that effort need not be drudgery, but rather enjoyment. If what is taught and learned is then received, as the preacher encourages man to do with God’s gift of busyness, and Socrates envied in Ion, then one begins to think poetically rather than with difficulty. Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio says, “The whole end of reason is not just to know the truth, but to love the truth and hence embrace its ramifications.”  The why behind the what is understood as poetically beautiful.
 Giambattista Vico, On the Study Methods of Our Time, trans. Elio Gianturco (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), pg. 19.
 James V. Schall. On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs, (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2012), p. 15.
 Ibid, p. 17.
 Plato, John M. Cooper, and D. S. Hutchinson, “Ion,” in Complete Works (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 1997), pg. 938. [Sect. 530c].
 Jeffry Davis and Phillip Ryken, interviewed by Ken Myers. Mars Hill Audio, Vol. 117, MHT-117. 2013
Davis, Jeffry and Phillip Ryken, interviewed by Ken Myers. Mars Hill Audio, Vol. 117, MHT-117. 2013
Schall, James V. On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs: Teaching Writing Playing Believing. :Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2012.
Plato, John M. Cooper, and D. S. Hutchinson. “Ion.” In Complete Works, 157-234. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 1997.
Vico, Giambattista. On the Study Methods of Our Time. Translated by Elio Gianturco. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.
I did not watch the MTV Video Music Awards last night. (August 25, 2013).
To be honest, I have never watched an MTV Music Video Awards show. I really do not have to. The media always runs with attention grabbing headlines and then showcase all the highlights.
I really felt sorry for Taylor Swift when she was rudely interrupted by Kanye West several years ago.
But I do not feel sorry for Miley Cyrus this morning.
To be honest, I have decided to take a break from all news media today (and probably the rest of the week). The overkill of Miley images has disgusted me to the point that I wish to avoid all offensive content. The irony here is that the media (nbcnews.com, abcnews.com, theblaze.com, drudgereport.com, foxnews.com) are all eager for us to view the pornographic video performance while at the same time warning us of its content. The screen captured images that accompany the headlines alone cause me to turn my head, check my spirit, and refuse to read the articles or view the videos.
Glenn Beck’s theblaze.com alone is offensive while at the same time taking the high moral road.
The byline that accompanies the video link on theblaze.com says; “To see exactly what went down during Cyrus’ clothes-ripping, raunchfest performance with Robin Thicke, watch below (content warning: the following passed MTV’s censors, but might not pass yours):”
Now if the content is that offensive, why even provide the video?
Good bye news media.
Good bye offensive headlines.
Good bye pop culture.
I will stick with the classics thank you. Aristotle and Kant will occupy my time this week.
Rebecca Hamilton at patheos.com has posted an insightful argument to show the bias in American academia toward Evangelical & Fundamentalist Christians.
“Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your might.” [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]
The Shemah, that means hear!, listen!, was the first commandment that all children of Israel knew and understood. The words of the Shemah were commanded to be taught to one’s children and for them to be on the heart of all Israel. [Deuteronomy 6:6-7]. When Jesus answers the Pharisaical lawyer in Matthew’s gospel account (Matthew 22:34-40), the Shema would be very well known and understood.But in looking closer at both passages in Deuteronomy and in Matthew, Jesus changes one word in the Shema. Deuteronomy says, “..your heart..soul…might.” Whereas Jesus says, “..your heart..soul..mind.”
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And 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 great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’ “
Now perhaps the translation between the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of Matthew’s gospel provide the change from might to mind, but in reading the texts for the context of what they are, Jesus seems to be personalizing the Shema to the lawyer’s personality. When one considers a lawyer, or someone academically submersed in the law, the lawyer is thought of as one who has a strong mind. His mind is his might. Or his mind is his strength. It seems as if Jesus is making a personal connection with the lawyer and the Shema.
Jesus then goes further and answers the lawyer’s question by adding a second commandment as the greatest.
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” [Leviticus 19:18].
Jesus is reminding the Pharisees, who were setting him up for a trap (Matthew 22:15), that vengeance against a fellow Jew was forbidden by the Law. His point is that the first priority of Israel is to love GOD. God is one. God is to be loved and in so loving God, man is to love man in return. No grudges or vengeance is to be harbored against one who is unfavored.
Jesus is taking a stand in the Matthew account as both one with authority and mastery of the Law and as God himself. By quoting the command of Leviticus 19:18, “…I am the Lord.” Jesus is subtly, yet firmly showing the Pharisees, who insisted on obedience of the Law, that he, Jesus, was the I am, the Lawgiver, whom they were to love, rather than bear a grudge.
“If anyone says, ‘I love, God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” [1 John 4:20-21].
Jesus’ answer to the Lawyer as to the greatest commandment ties the command to love God in the Shema, to practical application toward humanity. One’s brothers, neighbors, mankind, is to be loved as one loves God. Not that humanity is to be loved in place of or over God, but rather as a response to loving God. If God loves humanity, humanity, in loving God, loves each other.