Who is my neighbor?

The Bible has a lot to say about neighbors.  In the Ten Commandments alone we are told:  not testify falsely against your neighbor;  not covet your neighbor’s house; not covet your neighbor’s wife; or their maid or pool boy; or their mode of transportation; or anything else that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16-17)

Jesus said, loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself is as important as loving God and the summation of the whole Old Testament law! (Matthew 22:35-40)

What does that mean to us today?  It means that we need to understand how to treat our neighbors right if we want to be right with God.

So, with this being such an important concept in scripture and the teachings of Jesus Himself, it seems reasonable that someone would ask, “Who is my neighbor?”  A Pharisee (a teacher of the Jewish law) asked that question in Luke 10:25-37.  Jesus responded with a story that we call the Good Samaritan.

A Jewish man was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road.  A priest walks buy and does nothing.  A church Deacon (Levite) looks at him but doesn’t help.  Finally a despised Samaritan stops and helps the Jewish man.

The Jews truly despised the half-breed Samaritans, they were unclean to them.  Damned by birth.  It would be like a 1960s African American man stopping to help a Klu Klux Klan man and the Pharisee knew this bigotry.  Jesus asked him a question:

Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”

The Pharisee couldn’t help but replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus responded, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

His command to us today is the same. Be like the Good Samaritan.  If you are in a position to help someone, do it.  God will put people in your path, maybe even people you don’t relate to, maybe even people you have a prejudice towards…be Jesus to them.


2 thoughts on “Who is my neighbor?

  1. John says:

    People sometimes miss the other message in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Under the Old Testament Law, it would have been difficult if not impossible for the priest or Levite to touch a dying or badly wounded man because of all the cleansing rituals that would follow before he could do his job again, and it would slow to a crawl service in the Temple in the meantime. Thus in addition to placing it alongside other remarks of Jesus (healing on the sabbath, etc.), and the importance of the letter of the Law versus the spirit of the Law, it becomes a “good of the many outweights the good of the one” debate, and serves as a prophecy of Jesus’ own crucification, foreseeing Caiaphas’ remark, “It is expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.”
    In a roundabout way, Jesus may be referring to Himself here, and the way that the Gentiles would embrace His teaching when the Jews rejected it.
    I once saw a cartoon where Caiaphas justified his actions: if Jesus was a heretic, it was his duty to condemn him, whereas if Jesus was the Messiah, it was his duty to sacrifice the Lamb of God in accordance with Messianic prophecy. “In other words,” someone responded, “you’re blessed if you do and blessed if don’t.”
    And thus there’s a deeper irony in the parable: it was essentially the overcomplicated law of the Pharisees (rejected by the Samaritans, who worshipped the Jewish God much more simply) which prevented them from helping. They had lost the purpose of the Law in the very following of the Law.


    • That is an interesting premise John, that Jesus might have been illustrating Himself in this parable also. He always had multiple applications to each parable.

      It is a noteworthy observation that they lost the very purpose of the law by following it to the very letter. I believe that was one of the key messages of Jesus. “Don’t let your desire to serve God keep you from serving God.”
      Thanks for the thought provoking comments. Much appreciated.


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