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Luke 10:29–37

“ ‘Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ [The lawyer] said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise’ ” (vv. 36–37).

Upon hearing Jesus’ agreement that love of God and neighbor is the way to eternal life (Luke 10:25–28), the lawyer who asked our Lord about salvation did not immediately move on. Instead, as we see in today’s passage, he pressed Jesus for clarification, asking Him who is the neighbor whom we are to love (Luke 10:29).

The lawyer did not ask an innocuous question, for Luke 10:29 tells us that he was seeking to justify himself. The sense here is that the lawyer was looking for a definition of neighbor that would allow him to feel good about his actions. He was searching for the minimum that had to be done to be reckoned as one who kept the commandments. His motives show that he did not have a full grasp of the Lord’s demand for perfection (Matt. 5:48), but that he sought for the requirements of God’s law to be watered down so that he could assure himself that he had kept it as the Lord intended. Typically, sinners who think they can merit heaven by their own good works believe this because they have made God’s law less demanding than it actually is. Only if His law does not require perfection can sinners say that they have fully met its demands.

Jesus responded with the well-known parable of the good Samaritan, which highlights the lawyer’s own deficiencies in loving his neighbor and also shows us the extent to which we are to go in seeking to fulfill God’s law. The Samaritans were the descendants of Israelites who had intermarried with gentiles after the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:6–41). First-century Jews commonly regarded the Samaritans as unclean because they were of mixed Jew-gentile ancestry and because they followed a corrupted form of worship that centered on Mount Gerizim and not on Jerusalem (see John 4:20). The fact that in the parable a Samaritan man helps the injured Jew while Jewish spiritual leaders pass the man by is an indictment of those Jews who had narrowed their definition of neighbor to only other Jews (Luke 10:29–35). God’s law is so comprehensive that anyone in need whom we can help is our neighbor, and we have not even begun to fulfill the law of loving our neighbor if we are willing to assist only certain kinds of people.

The lawyer got Jesus’ point. When the Lord asked him which man in the parable was a neighbor to the man in need, he responded that it was the Samaritan (Luke 10:36–37). May we get the point as well and not limit our definition of neighbor to a select few.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Because we will sin until we are glorified (1 John 1:8–9), we will always fall short in this life as we seek to love our neighbors. That does not give us license, however, to stop trying to see all kinds of people as neighbors to be loved. Let us ask ourselves which persons we are having trouble loving this day, repent for our lack of love, and then seek to love those people in a tangible way.

for further study
  • 2 Samuel 9
  • 2 Kings 5:1–14
  • Romans 13:8–10
  • James 2:8–9
the bible in a year
  • 1 Chronicles 14–16
  • John 9:24–41

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