“To Justify Himself” ( Luke 10: 29, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


How many times have I fallen into this self-made trap? Many. But, Lord, is it wrong to save for retirement? But, Lord, that beggar will use that money to buy liquor. But, Lord, I need that, too. But, Lord, I can’t go overseas; I’m not good enough for that. But, Lord, someone else will stop. But, Lord…

An expert in the law asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what he thinks he needs to do based on what he knows of the law. The man correctly answers by saying he is to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind; and he is to love his neighbor as himself. Jesus says, “You’ve answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)

But the expert in the law wants to justify himself, so he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Seeking to make himself right with God, he makes a lame excuse — I don’t know who my neighbor is, God.

Jesus tells the tale of the good Samaritan, the only one of three men who stops to help a traveler — a stranger — who is injured and helpless on the side of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. The Samaritan goes out of his way to help this man who has been robbed and stripped and beaten.

Jesus wants to know who is the neighbor in this story. The expert in the law answers correctly again. The neighbor is the Samaritan who stops to help the stranger.

Be a good neighbor, says Jesus. Be a good neighbor to strangers and friends alike.

“Give, and it is given to you; a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over — is poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it is measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)

“Who Is My Neighbor?” ( Luke 10: 29, NIV ) by Carley Evans


“But he wants to justify himself, so he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

 

Jesus replies with the story of the Jewish man who “falls into the hands of robbers. They strip him of his clothes, beat him and go away, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:30) So, this man lies naked along the side of a road. “A priest happens to be going down the same road, and when he sees the man, he passes by on the other side.” Apparently, this priest not only goes on his way, but he deliberately avoids the man likely by crossing to the other side so he will not have to look at the man who is half dead. A Levite comes along, and also makes a concerted effort to ignore and avoid the half dead man.

 

But, a Samaritan – a hated enemy of the Jew — upon sighting the bleeding, dying man takes pity on him. He goes to him, bandages his wounds after “pouring on oil and wine. Then he puts the man on his own donkey, takes him to an inn and takes care of him.” (Luke 10:34) He pays the innkeeper “two silver coins” to “look after him.” (Luke 10:35) He also promises to repay any extra expenses when he returns. He has no intention of going on his way without a planned return to check up on the injured man.

 

It’s likely the innkeeper is surprised to find a Samaritan helping a Jew. And imagine the bewilderment the Jewish man will feel when he finally recovers, perhaps even encountering the Samaritan upon his return to the inn.

 

Today, the event Jesus describes might be akin to a Muslim who stops to help a Christian. This Christian is bleeding to death from being mugged and stabbed in a city alley. A pastor might pass by, crossing to the other side of the street. A judge might avoid the bleeding man. But, a Muslim stops to help. He bandages the man, carries him to his own car, takes him to a local emergency room where he guarantees payment to the intake personnel at the front desk.

 

Seeking to justify ourselves, we may say that the Muslim is not our neighbor, but our enemy. Jesus contradicts us.