If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. James 2:8 (ESV)
Many times during the ministry of Jesus the religious leaders and others tried to trick him with his words. They were persistent in testing Jesus in hopes, I suppose, that he would contradict what was written in the law and prophets. Maybe if they could catch him in his words they would have something by which to accuse him and justify their pious actions (Mark 12:13; Luke 10:29; 11:54).
On one such occasion a lawyer stood to test him by asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with a question, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” To which the lawyer replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:26-28).
The lawyer then asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with this story: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” (Luke 10:30-35 ESV) The conclusion drawn by the lawyer was that the neighbor was the one who showed mercy to the injured man.
It is not a far stretch to assume that the lawyer and the injured man in Jesus’ story were Jewish though the scripture does not give us that information specifically. If so, the fact that a Samaritan performed the neighborly act would have been offensive to the lawyer because Jews had no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9). It also means that the Samaritan crossed ethnic lines to help someone in need.
In addition to the possibility of crossing ethnic lines, the act of kindness shown by the Samaritan gives us other examples of what it means to be a neighbor. He temporarily postponed his journey to help the injured man. He used his own sustenance to doctor him and then put the man on his own donkey meaning he had to walk the rest of the way to Jericho. Then when he arrived at the inn he paid for the man’s immediate needs and obligated himself to future assistance. So, the Samaritan invested his time and comfort plus material and monetary resources to help someone in need; he did the neighborly thing.
Do you love yourself by investing your time, comfort and material and monetary resources to meet your needs? Do you love your neighbor the same way?
Scriptures for meditation:
Romans 13:10; 15:2
1 Corinthians 10:24