Do you REALLY want to know who your neighbor is? Almost two-thousand years ago, a man asked Jesus this question, but the answer he got caught him off-guard.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)
Who is my neighbor?
The man who asked this question was an expert in the Law of Moses, a lawyer, and he was under the mistaken notion that if he used the Law as a “checklist“, God should be pretty pleased with him. He thought that he could earn his way to heaven by his own efforts. “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus did humor him a bit, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”, before He dropped the bomb on him. Yes, the man knew the Law, but… 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus quickly reminded him that keeping the “rules” wasn’t good enough, because he still had a serious “heart” problem. “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
This is where it gets messy, because there is more to “love” than mere “good-feelings“. As Jesus told this Parable, two “good” people, a Priest and a Levite, passed the injured man without helping him, because helping him might make them “unclean“, and besides, it was “below their pay-grade“. They were “holy-men“, not field-medics. Besides, the road was dangerous, and they sure didn’t want to put themselves in any danger. Perhaps they mumbled a prayer as they scurried by, but they certainly weren’t going to get THEIR hands dirty. Sorry, but the injured man WASN’T THEIR PROBLEM.
The Samaritan didn’t consider helping the man below HIS “pay-grade”, and he went out of his way to take care of the man’s immediate needs AND to make sure the man was well cared-for while he recuperated. Imagine taking someone to an Emergency Room, them being admitted to the hospital, and picking up the tab also. I have taken a sick person to an ER several times, but I don’t have the resources to pay their bill. This was sacrificial-love.
Jesus asked him “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
Jesus was looking for a direct answer, but the man couldn’t stand to even say “Samaritan“, so he said “The one who showed him mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”, which isn’t just a “suggestion“, it is a command. Jesus was calling for sacrificial-love, not just lip-service.
Jesus wasn’t just calling for a “feel-good” love, the “warm and fuzzy” variety, He was calling for ACTION. This is a “get your hands dirty“, “boots on the ground” kind of love, and it may be “inconvenient“, time-consuming, and may involve long days and short nights. It is self-giving love.
The answer to this question has far-reaching implications, because, as Jesus taught us, our “neighbor” isn’t just the person who lives next door to us. Yes, the person who lives next door to us may be the “neighbor” we should help, but that isn’t the limit of our love, and rather than repeating what I have written already, I invite you to read “Have You Done It For Jesus?“.
I also invite you, my readers, to tell the stories of people you have loved sacrificially, so that we can all be encouraged by how God is working through you in someone’s life. We are neighbors, even if we are on opposite sides of the globe.
Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”