1 Samuel 15-16 Luke 10:25-42
“But the man, wanting to show the importance of his question, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29 NCV)
You would have thought that the Pharisees had learned this truth early on in Jesus’s ministry. If you’re in a verbal sparring match with Jesus, you lose. No matter how tricky the question; no matter how important the question, if you’re trying to make yourself look good, or Jesus look bad, you lose. The Scribes and Pharisees were at it again, trying to pin Jesus down. First, they asked Him about getting eternal life. When Jesus asked what the Law said, they parroted what Jesus had answered when He was asked about the greatest commandment. If they’d just stopped there, they’d’ve had a draw. Instead they tried to pin Him down. “Ok, I’m supposed to love my neighbor. Define my neighbor.” I can imagine the disciples smiling at that question thinking, “OK, now he’s really gonna get it.”
That question really cuts to the division between Law and Grace. Under Law, we’d sit down and define neighbor. For the Jews of that day, the definition of a neighbor might begin with, “Well, he’s Jewish.” This scribe wanted to limit the number of people he showed love to. He would love his neighbors if only he knew the right ones to love. Jesus exploded that attitude. His answer put Jews, and later Christians, on alert: “you be the neighbor. You act neighborly.” The Law seeks limitations. “Who is my neighbor? How much should I give? What’s the minimum I need to do?” Grace breaks down barriers. “I’m to be a neighbor to all. Everything belongs to God. How can I do more?” Following Jesus isn’t a religion where we do the minimum to stay in good standing; following Jesus is a love relationship where we give all we have and all we are because of the joy in that relationship. I don’t show love for my wife by trying to get by doing the least amount possible. I get excited about being able to be with her, to help her, to work with her. In my relationship with Jesus, I’m excited that I get to go to church and worship Him with fellow believers. Overtime on Sunday morning? Awesome! Sunday night? Wednesday night? Other opportunities to serve? All of those are great because I get to be with my Lord and act out of my love for Him. Should the tithe on my check be $85.53? or should I round it up and make it $90? Or $100? When I realize that all that I give goes to further the work of the Kingdom of God, I get excited at the opportunity to give more. All I have comes from God. Do I work? Yes, because He gave me the ability. Do I earn the money I get? Yes, because God enabled me to be healthy enough to work. Life itself is a gift from God. Jesus taught us to be a neighbor to those we meet. Sometimes that ain’t easy, but then again, the guy who lives next door to me might think it isn’t easy to be a neighbor to me. We should rejoice in the opportunity to be a neighbor to others and find ways to minister to our neighbors in need.
Lord, You’re amazing! Make my life so full that it would be ridiculous to let religious rules and regulations limit me. Give me a heart willing to care for my neighbor, to give to support others, and to spend time with You.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.