Who is my Neighbor?

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A young lawyer came to test Jesus with this question: “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus, as He often did, answered with a question: “What does the law say?”

The lawyer said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Jesus said he was right and that’s what he should do. Then the Bible says the young man wanted to justify himself and asked, “Who is my neighbor?” It seems to me he might have been condescending toward Jesus, but I am glad he asked the question because Jesus used the opportunity to teach a lesson.

He told this story in Luke 10:30-35 (my paraphrase): A man traveled the rough mountain road from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of bandits who stripped him of his clothes, beat him up and left him to die. A priest saw him on the side of the road and walked by on the other side. A Levite did the same thing. Were these upstanding Jews too busy or did they just not care? A Samaritan who was considered an outcast because he was half Jewish and half Samarian, saw the wounded man and took time to wash him, pour oil and wine on him and bandage his wounds. He put him on his own donkey and took him to a hotel in town where he took care of him. The next morning he gave money to the hotel owner for the sick man and said, “Take care of him. When I come back I’ll give you back any extra money you had to spend” (Luke 10:35).

“Which of these men proved he was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by the bandits?” asked Jesus.

The young lawyer said, “The one who was merciful.”

Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”


Since Jesus was the only way for the young lawyer to enter into eternal life, why did He have this conversation? Because for anyone to experience eternal life, he must first love God. There is real meat in the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” When we truly love God, we will love and serve others. Does that mean it will be easy? No, but it’s what we want to do. Maybe it means we have to be flexible enough with our time to be able to help someone when the need arises. Jesus is our example. When people had needs, He didn’t walk by on the other side of the street. He took time to help hurting and sick people. He allowed interruptions along His journey to show compassion.


Thank you, Lord, for all the ways you love us. Help us to love as you do and to allow interruptions in our day so we might be compassionate like Jesus. In His great name, Amen.