And who is my neighbor?

Proverbs 3:27-28

(27)  Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

(28)  Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and [tomorrow] I will give; when thou hast it by thee.

There was a lawyer who once approached Jesus during the Lord’s earthly ministry who asked Him: “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25b) The Lord answered with a question because the lawyer already knew the answer: “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” (Luke 10:26b) The lawyer answered with a verse that every Jewish citizen knew almost as soon as they could learn to speak: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27b) Jesus told him he was right and added: “This do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:28b) Then Luke adds this to the narrative: “But [the lawyer], willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) The Lord responded to that with the parable of the good Samaritan.

Samaritans were half-breeds. When the northern kingdom of Israel fell in OT times, the conquerors sent many Gentiles into the region and the Jews who remained there married into Gentile families. To full Jews like the scribes and Pharisees, and this lawyer, that made them impure. But the Samaritan in Jesus’ parable had a much better grasp of pure religion (see James 1:27) than did this lawyer. The Samaritan, who was just traveling on his way, came across a man who had been mugged and severely beaten. Unlike the priest and the Levite who’d passed by earlier and taken a wide path around the injured man to preserve their “purity,” (Luke 10:31-31) the Samaritan brought this man to safety and paid for his care.

When Jesus finished His parable, He used the lawyer’s own word against him: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” (Luke 10:36) The lawyer had to agree that it was the half-breed Samaritan who had the truth because he actually lived it. (Leave it to the Lord to out-lawyer a lawyer!)

If I really want to know what I truly believe, I need to examine how I truly live. Just knowing the right answers is not enough. My life has to reflect my relationship to my Lord. The best measure of my relationship to the Lord is not just how I treat my neighbor, but who I consider my neighbor.

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