Bible Study Blog

Who is Your Neighbor?

by Brandy Webb

I know that we all know the parable of the Good Samaritan. I have read it many times, but the other day my husband modernized it in such a way that it made me think about it in a different light. I can’t remember word-for-word what he said, but I will modernize it in my way.

I want to first point out why Jesus tells this parable. A lawyer decides to test Jesus and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Jesus then asks him what is written in the law. The lawyer replies, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27). These points are referring back to Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

Then, the lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). This is when Jesus starts the parable of the Good Samaritan. I want to point out that we have to understand one major point about Jesus choosing a Samaritan to be the one who helped. The Jews did not like the Samaritans during this time. In fact, they were considered unclean and lost souls. Jesus chose the hero of the story to be a person that the Jews looked down upon.

So, here is my modernized version. One day a man is walking down Main Street. There are two major Christian churches on this street. In fact, he was thinking about visiting one of these churches. However, out of nowhere a group of thugs jump him, beat him up, steal his wallet, and leave him in a heap on the sidewalk. Then, the minister from Church A comes walking down the sidewalk. He sees the man and shudders, turns around, and hurriedly goes the other way. Next, the evangelical preacher from Church B is walking down the sidewalk, and he too sees the man. He quickly turns his head to look the other way pretending that he didn’t see anything, and proceeds down the sidewalk.

Finally, a stranger, who happens to be in town for business and has decided to walk around the block to admire the town, comes down the sidewalk. This man is not a Christian. In fact, he doesn’t even believe God exists, and he thinks Christianity is weird. However, when he sees the man, he immediately runs towards him, checks that the man is alive, calls an ambulance, and stays by his side until the paramedics get there. He even asks the paramedics which hospital they are taking him to so that he can go there to check on him later. So, which of the three was a neighbor to the wounded man?

I know it is obvious who the good neighbor was. However, which person would we be? We as Christians are supposed to set the standard on being neighborly. Sometimes, though, I feel like we act neighborly to people we like and people within the church, but how do we respond to anyone outside of our little bubbles? How do we act on social media towards people that have different opinions than us? How do we treat strangers? Anyone we come into contact with is our neighbor.

We are to be neighborly to all. That means neighborly to people we may not like. I believe that if we, as Christians, truly live lives that show mercy, love, kindness, gentleness, self-control, etc., we would be living out God’s will, which is “that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15). In other words, living lives full of good actions. Walking the walk, not talking the talk.

We are to conduct ourselves in such a way that people can’t accuse us of being hypocrites. We are also to conduct ourselves in such a way that non-believers may see our “good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). This requires us to be good neighbors. 

I want to paraphrase how a good neighbor is to act from Leviticus 19:9-17. A good neighbor is not greedy (verse 9). The neighbor shares their food with others (verse 9). They give to the poor and the foreigner (verse 10). A good neighbor does not steal, is not deceptive, does not lie, and does not falsely swear in God’s name (verses 11-12). He or she does not oppress others nor rob them (verse 13). If they are an employer, they pay their employees fairly (verse 13). A good neighbor does not make fun of people, and definitely does not put stumbling blocks in front of people (verse 14). He or she acts justly, does not show favoritism, does not slander others, does not gossip, and does not harbor hatred towards others (verses 15-16). A good neighbor also “does not take revenge or bear a grudge,” but instead loves their neighbor as themselves (verse 18). 

We are God’s representatives. We are to behave the way God tells us to, and this requires us to be good neighbors. Let us all work on showing the world what a Good Neighbor looks like.