So what exactly does a neighbor do? It’s one thing to have a right and proper biblical mindset about what a neighbor is, it’s another thing to practically live it out. So, we ask again: How does a true neighbor sacrificially give of him/herself for the benefit of others? Jesus also answers this question in Luke 10:25–37 in the details of the actions of the Samaritan man versus the priest and Levite.
Did you notice how Jesus contrasts the actions of the Samaritan with the priest and Levite? For the priest and Levite, only two verbs are attached to them in the story. They both see the traveler and they both pass by on the other side (verses 31 and 32). This all they do. They do nothing for the beaten traveler. They see the traveler in desperate need and then, rather than stopping to help the man, they keep their distance and continue on their journey. The traveler was one of their own, a Jewish man, yet they did nothing. They simply see the man and pass by.
However, for the Samaritan, Jesus slows the story down to give detail after detail, to describe action after action (verses 33 through 35). The Samaritan, although he has a time table to keep, although there are probably people waiting for him, he pushes that to the side to help the beaten traveler. The Samaritan not only goes beside the man, but he even does the best he can to bandage the traveler. Not only that, he goes out of his way to the nearest village, stays up all night beside the traveler nursing him as best he can. Then on the following day he reaches into his financial resources to care for traveler. This Samaritan sacrificially gives so much of himself – his time, his energy, and his resources – to benefit the Jewish traveler. Jesus intends to convey in this story that a neighbor sacrificially gives of him/herself for the benefit of others.
Let’s make this personal for us today: To love our neighbors we must meet material, physical, and economic needs in our actions. This is what Jesus calls for His followers to do. If you are still not convinced, let us give another word from Jesus. Look ahead to Luke 14:12–14. In this passage, Jesus commands His disciples on who they should interact with, and like the Good Samaritan parable, Jesus’ words are sobering and convicting. Jesus commands His disciples to open their homes and to build relationships NOT with people who are like them – people from their own culture, economic class, and educational level. Rather, they should open their homes and build relationships with those who are poor, homeless, and who have no social influence. To be a kingdom person, we must interact with those who could never repay us back with money or favors.
Now hear us out: Jesus is not saying that we should stop caring for our friends and family. He is not saying that we shouldn’t care for ourselves. What He is expressing is that we should spend far more of our resources on the vulnerable than we do on ourselves. Tim Keller, a pastor in Manhattan, says it this way: “We should spend far more of our money and wealth on the poor than we do on our own entertainment, or on vacations, or on eating out and socializing with important peers.” Whoa! Brothers and sisters, Jesus is intentionally attacking the world system at its root. He does so because we as humans are utterly self-centered. We will help and care for people, but only on our terms, when it is convenient for us. We won’t help people when it burdens us, when it cuts into our life and our pleasures. But this is exactly what Jesus is after. This is what a neighbor does. A neighbor sacrificially gives of him/herself for the benefit of others. May the Lord give us confidence and perseverance to act in this way toward all peoples, including the immigrants and refugees surrounding us.
Do you have other suggestions for practical application? Let us know in our forum!