This famous saying occurs in Mathew 22:37-39, when Jesus answers a question posed by the Pharisees about the law; a question that was meant to trick Jesus. But it became important for the early Christian communities as they experienced anxiety and persecution from many sides; they needed to support each other. Today this saying still has a powerful influence as many churches and religious societies use it to give meaning to their outward activities. This has led to a service-minded religion that emphasises charity as 'God's work'. Many charity workers however, become disillusioned; at best they draw back from further involvement or at worst they become 'burnt-out' by the demands of such work.
In 'Thomas', there is no direct comparison to 'love your neighbour'. In fact, Jesus explicitly states that ".. and if you give alms you will do harm to your spirits." (logion 14:6-7). Why would he say this and what harm could we do to ourselves? Could the answer be linked to our Ahamkara? Perhaps Jesus was aware that when we 'love our neighbour' or simply 'help others', we set some form of expectation on others and ourselves: we seek gratitude of others, seek pride in our efforts, or seek recognition of our worthiness from our peers. And what happens when this expectation is not met: disappointment, hurt, frustration, anger, or anxiety. We have been driven by our Ahamkara! Our little self is back in charge; 'the robbers have crept in' (logion 103). So many of the logia (#21, #35, #57, #63) warn us of this danger.
Jesus gives us the warning of the robbers, but what then is the meaning of this logion?
Love your brother even as your own soul,
even as the pupil of your eye. (logion 25)
Is that not the same as 'love your neighbour'?
As Jesus always leads us away from the world of 'objects' to our inner spiritual world, this saying has a deeper meaning. Our 'brother' is one close to us and who is more close to us than our own Real Self! We are to be the 'guardians'. From what? From the 'robbers' that come forth from our Ahamkara. And what is the 'eye' other than our spiritual eye, sometimes called our third eye. So this logion becomes:
Love your own Real Self more than anything else, and protect this heart of your spirituality from the distractions of the outer world.
A much more profound meaning than 'love your neighbour'!