Whose name did you put in that blank? State Farm's or your own?
State Farm has done a masterful job of associating their brand with "being a good neighbor," but God wants me to put my name in that blank. Jesus makes this very clear.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is not a simple "be nice" story. Jesus uses parables to show us what life in his kingdom looks like. He gives us parables to help us align our hearts with his heart. Knowing that, we must listen to his story more carefully:
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “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. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 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. 35 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.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37 ESV
Jesus is giving us the WHO, WHAT, and WHY of being a good neighbor. But let's make this personal. You ask these questions for yourself and I'll do the same.
Who is my neighbor?
Jesus is showing me that my neighbor is anyone in need. At times the needy person may look like me, but just as often he doesn't. In his book, Gospel In Life, Tim Keller asks this penetrating question:
I am a Kingdom citizen. That means everyone is my neighbor -- those I like and those I don't.
What does it mean to love my neighbor?
A quick look back at the text gives me my answer. Loving my neighbor is taking practical steps to meet his or her need. This is what the good Samaritan did:
- He went to the man.
- He cleaned the wounds.
- He bandaged the wounds.
- He set him on his animal.
- He brought him to the inn.
- He took care of the injured man.
- He paid the bill.
- He offered to pay more.
When I look at the Samaritan, here is the lesson God wants me to learn:
Reflecting on Jesus' parable, Craig Blomberg posed this question: Who needs your mercy this week even if you have to slow down from your hurry to show it?
Why do I love my neighbor?
The answer to the third question is easy, but how often I forget it. I love others because I have been greatly loved by God.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 1 John 3:16-17 ESV
God's motivating factor is God's gracious love. I have been greatly loved by God -- at great inconvenience and at great pain. How can I not give what I have been given?
Jesus' final words ...
The final words of Jesus' parable get me. "You go, and do likewise.” Jesus is saying, "Tommy, you go and do this constantly as a part of your everyday life."
He says the same to you. So how are you going to fill in the blank today?