WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
“Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9 NKJV)
A certain lawyer came to test Jesus, asking, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by asking, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (Luke 10:26 NKJV).
The man answered, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'” (Luke 10:27 NKJV).
Jesus then replied, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28 NKJV).
Jesus was certainly not advocating or establishing the keeping of the Law as a requirement for receiving eternal life. For this will negate His purpose of coming into the world to be a propitiation for our sins, thereby providing salvation as a gift for all men (1 John 2:2, Eph. 2:8).
Eternal life can never be earned, merited, or obtained by keeping the Mosaic Law, for no man can perfectly keep all the commandments of God without stumbling in one point.
Galatians 2:16 – NKJV
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
James 2:10 – NKJV
10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
The Lord Jesus was simply seeking to lead this lawyer, who wanted to know what to do to earn or deserve eternal life, to the realization of his inability to perfectly keep the law so that he might acknowledge his sinfulness, humble himself, and put his faith in Jesus for salvation.
But this lawyer was bent on seeking to be justified in God’s sight by his good works, so he further asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29 NKJV).
What an evasive and insincere question!
He wanted to use the commandment in Leviticus 19:18 to justify himself.
Leviticus 19:18 – NKJV
18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Perhaps, this lawyer had been treating well his fellow Jews whom he regarded as his neighbors according to his improper interpretation of the law.
But in response to this lawyer’s insincere question, the Lord Jesus gave one of the most popular parables in the Bible – the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:30-34 – NKJV
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 “Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.
33 “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.
34 “So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
Jesus’ intention of giving this parable was to show this lawyer that his understanding of the law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” was too shallow and narrow.
Unlike many other parables of Jesus, the parable of the Good Samaritan is self-explanatory. This lawyer needed no further explanation to see his foolishness in seeking to be justified in God’s sight based on his love or good works towards his fellow Jews.
At the end of the parable, Jesus simply turned to him and asked, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
He rightly responded, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37 NKJV).
Many Greek words were translated “neighbor” in the New Testament: “geiton” meaning “one living in the same land”; “perioikos” meaning “dwelling around”; “plesion” from “pelas,” meaning “near” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).
The Greek word translated “neighbor” in Luke 10:27, 29, 36 is “plesion,” meaning “one who is near.”
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “neighbor,” among several definitions, as “a fellow human.”
When simply put, your neighbor is your fellow human who is near you.
From Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the fallen, naked, wounded, and half-dead man was directly in the path of the three characters in the parable: the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan.
Sadly, the priest and the Levite, the custodians and teachers of the Law, passed by on the other side when they saw the man, probably because he was not a fellow Jew.
Likewise, today, many believers ignore or pass by the people in need because they do not belong to the same religion, denomination, organization, tribe, race, or color.
Beloved, your neighbors are not just your close friends, fellow believers, townsmen, or those living adjacent to you, but your fellow humans in need who God brings or places in your way so that you may help them.
Many of those God has put directly in your path are in dire spiritual, physical, financial, or emotional needs. But unfortunately, like the insensitive priest and the Levite in this parable, you always ignore them and pass by on the other side to your daily businesses and activities.
Friend, for how long are you going to be passing by on the other side, watching those who God brought your way directly languishing or pining away for lack of love, care, encouragement, or support?
The Lord Jesus Christ is calling you today to open your mouth in defense of the speechless, to stand up for the oppressed, to be eyes to the blind, to be feet to the lame, and a father to the orphans.
Proverbs 31:8-9 –NKJV
8 Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die.
9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
This is what it means to be a good neighbor to others!
This is what it means to be a Good Samaritan!
Job said, “I was eyes to the blind, and I was feet to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the case that I did not know. I broke the fangs of the wicked, and plucked the victim from his teeth.” (Job 29:15-17 NKJV).
What about you?
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for my callousness and indifference to the needs of those you directly brought or placed in my way to help. My Dear Holy Spirit, open my eyes and heart daily to be a good neighbor to those in need, in Jesus’ name. Amen.