Who Is My Neighbor?

SERIES: Jesus and The Disinherited


Aim: After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to (1) define neighbor as Jesus does and provide current examples. (2) Explain the importance of how Jesus shifts the focus from legalism to true obedience. (3) Make a plan to proactively love a neighbor he or she has historically preferred to avoid!  Remember: God includes the excluded!


Questions!  People ask you questions all the time.  Questions are asked for many reasons:

  1. information
  2. testing 
  3. accusing 
  4. justification
  5. impose a delay
  6. exert power
  7. make a statement

There are two supreme questions of life, questions that could revolutionize the world if men would ask them and then heed their answers.

  • Question 1: How do we inherit eternal life?
  • Question 2: Who is my neighbor?

In our lesson today, Jesus is asked these  two questions.


Racism, prejudice, and discrimination are sins that have been around as long as humanity. Those sins have taken the very good and beautiful design of God in all its diversity and corrupts it into something God never intended and makes it something ugly. Such sin existed down through history and still exists in every corner of the world in some form and to varying degrees. It is evident in both the Old Testament as well as the New.

There is a long and bitter history between the Jews and Samaritans. After the Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom, those Jews captured and exiled and returned intermarried with Assyrians. Their religion became a mixture, some holding to just the first 5 Books of the bible, others incorporating idolatry. Nearly 300 years later, When Ezra returned to start the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian conquest, we can see the distain the returning Jews had for the Samaritans. Ezra 4:1-4 reads

Ezra 4:1-4 (AMPC)

1     Now when [the Samaritans] the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles from the captivity were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel,

2     They came to Zerubbabel [now governor] and to the heads of the fathers’ houses and said, Let us build with you, for we seek and worship your God as you do, and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.

3     But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses of Israel said to them, You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us.

4     Then [the Samaritans] the people of the land [continually] weakened the hands of the people of Judah and troubled and terrified them in building

From there, the Samaritans went and built their own Temple. Then it is recorded in their history.

Around 9 AD, while Jesus was a young boy, some Samaritans secretly joined in with Jews going to the Temple in Jerusalem for Passover. Once inside, they desecrated the Temple by spreading human bones around the sanctuary and courts. This was probably the most sacrilegious thing one could do to the Temple aside from destroying it.

Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well notes this tension. In John 4, when Jesus asked the woman for a drink she responds in v.9 – “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.). . . “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

In verse 21  Jesus replied, “Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” He goes on to say in verse 22 “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

Elsewhere in Luke we saw that when the Samaritans rejected Jesus, James and John asked: “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy them?”

Luke 9:52-54 (ESV)

52   And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him.

53   But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

54   And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

That was during Jesus’ lifetime. But the animosity continued unabated. Again, in 51 AD, about 20 years after Christ ascended, but before Luke wrote his gospel, some Samaritans from the village of Ginae murdered some Jews on their way to Jerusalem for Passover. The Jews appealed to Rome for justice but were ignored. In retaliation, a mob from Jerusalem went to the village of Ginae, massacred all the inhabitants and burned the village to the ground. Then Rome intervened and arrested and executed several of the mob’s leaders.

This bold parable is so applicable that you can interchange the characters wherever racism and hatred is found and not miss the point of the parable.

It starts with an interchange between a lawyer and Jesus;

Luke 10:25-29 (NKJV)

25   And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26   He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?

27   So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

28   And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

29   But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

I.  Crafty Lawyer

1)    A lawyer was not a secular lawyer as we think, but one who was an expert in the Law of Moses.

2)    We see right away that this lawyer’s motives are amiss.  He is not truly seeking an answer to his question, but rather was hoping to somehow trip Jesus up.

3)    This lawyer “stood up” to ask a question of Jesus.

4)    Testing question

a)   The word “test” can be translated “tempt” and is a challenge

b)   The lawyer is also wrong in using the singular “what must I do” as if doing one thing would earn him salvation

4  Target question

c)    “who is my neighbor?”

ü  The Greek word for neighbor means “one who is near.”

ü  Instead of answering this question, Jesus gives a parable

Luke 10:30-37 (NKJV)

30   Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31   Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32   Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.

33   But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.

34   So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35   On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’

36   So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37   And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

II. Certain People

Identity – was not given, therefore the traveler could have been. . .

  • Black, Hispanic, White, another race
  • Immigrant
  • Single mom
  • Homosexual or Lesbian
  • Poor and unemployed
  • Westend resident

They were probably stereotyped as. . .

  • Ignorant – because they are probably seen as. . .
  • Lacking education
  • Lacking goals and aspirations
  • Lacking “good” sense
  • Irresponsible
  • Lazy
  • Lack goals
  • Lack decision making skills
  • Insignificant
  • Unwanted
  • Undesirable
  • Unnecessary

III. Church People

Jesus proceeds to tell how two individuals, church people, both returning from Jerusalem, most likely from having served in the Temple, passed by the victim.

This victim’s own countrymen ignored him.

Worse, they held positions of religious prominence from which the victim should have expected mercy and compassion, but received none!

Priest – when he saw him, he passed by on the other side

Levite – came and looked, and passed by on the other side

Point to Ponder: The Priest “saw” him, the Levite “came and looked” at him.  Is there a difference between “seeing” the person and “looking” at the person?  What does a person mean when they say “you are looking but you don’t see?

Point to Ponder:  During the Covid-19 pandemic when or is “social distancing” possible for the church? Or are we using “social distancing” as an excuse to not help?

Luke 10.25–37 according to Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Version of Luke and Acts (Clinton: New Win Publishing, 1969), 46–47

One day a teacher of an adult Bible class got up and tested him with this question: “Doctor, what does one do to be saved?” Jesus replied, “What does the Bible say? How do you interpret it?” The teacher answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your physical strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”  “That is correct,” answered Jesus. “Make a habit of this and you’ll be saved.” But the Sunday school teacher, trying to save face, asked, “But … er … but … just who is my neighbor?”

Then Jesus laid into him and said, “A man was going from Atlanta to Albany and some gangsters held him up. When they had robbed him of his wallet and brand-new suit, they beat him up and drove off in his car, leaving him unconscious on the shoulder of the highway.

“Now it just so happened that a white preacher was going down that same highway. When he saw the fellow, he stepped on the gas and went scooting by.

“Shortly afterwards a white Gospel song leader came down the road, and when he saw what had happened, he too stepped on the gas.” “Then, a black man traveling that way came upon the fellow, and what he saw moved him to tears. He stopped and bound up his wounds as best he could, drew some water from his water-jug to wipe away the blood and then laid him on the back seat. He drove on into Albany and took him to the hospital and said to the nurse, “You all take good care of this white man I found on the Highway. Here’s the only two dollars I got, but you all keep account of what he owes, and if he can’t pay it, I’ll settle up with you when I make a pay-day.” “Now if you had been the man held up by the gangsters, which of these three—the white preacher, the white song leader, or the black man—would you consider to have been your neighbor?”

The teacher of the adult Bible class said, “Why, of course, the nig—I mean, er … well, er … the one who treated me kindly.” Jesus said, “Well, then, you get going and start living like that!”

IV. Christian People

The relationship between Whites and Blacks in America, even within the Church, is remarkably similar to that between Jews and Samaritans of the first century.

The relationship between Black and White America has historically been characterized by prejudicial animosity and distrust.  Even in the church. 

The Church in America practiced “social distancing” long before covid-19 raised it’s ugly head! 

The “Good Samaritan” story, especially placed within the overall theology of Luke-Acts, destabilizes our inherited “Black-White” worldview, and challenges us to move beyond the “us-them” mentality of our culture to an “us-us in Christ,” unity that demolishes the ethnic boundaries of our society!

Who is my neighbor? It’s ANYONE in need regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender or difference.

What is my obligation towards my neighbor? What did Jesus say – “Go and do likewise,” go and show compassion and love to all people!

Jesus quoted the Old Testament when he summarized the commandments saying in Matthew 22:37-4037 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Paul validates this as well in Romans 13:8-108 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

If we add what we talked about last week about bearing the image of God and respecting that image in others so much that we would not just pass them by because they are homeless and out on the street. . .we get a broader picture of just how far neighborly love and compassion should extend.

Remember in our lesson last week, James said. . .

James 2:8-9 (NIV)

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

James calls the love of neighbor the “Royal Law” and he specifically condemns “favoritism” which means to “discriminate” based on externals.   Can Scripture make it any clearer? Racism and discrimination not only have no basis in Scripture, but they are condemned by Scripture.

V. Critical Warning 

  • We need to avoid doing it (helping others) from a supposed position of superiority and avoid the “savior complex.” 
  • We must fight the often-subtle feeling that I am loving and helping my neighbor with a false sense of pity.
  • We do need compassion, but our love must be extended from a level playing field; from a heart that recognizes that we are equals, made in and bearing the same image – God’s image. Circumstances may have created differences, and love calls us to help the one in need, but not because we are better. NO, it’s that we are better off at the moment than our neighbor.

So the command, to love our neighbor, must always be seen as equals helping equals in an unequal situation. If we have been blessed enough to extend help, we need to do it in a quiet and humble manner that honors the dignity of the other person. Otherwise our actions become hollow. This is what Paul expressed in his famous love chapter. 1 Corinthians 13:3 reads’ “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

So when we help another, let us do it from a heart of love, simply because that person is my neighbor in need.

PRAYER PRINCIPLE:                     Be thankful for the opportunity to represent Christ by being the best neighbor you can be; you may be the only Bible someone reads.

SOCIAL JUSTICE PRINCIPLE:       Readily look for situations to be neighborly.

EVANGELISM PRINCIPLE:            Do all you can to share what Christ did so that we can show others how to be neighbors of the highest honor.

STEWARDSHIP PRINCIPLE:            Being neighborly requires a giving spirit; give as God has given you.

DISCIPLESHIP PRINCIPLE:            If you are wondering what being neighborly looks like, remember what Christ did for us and how, even at our lowest point, provisions have always been made for us by God.

NEXT WEEK’S TITLE:    Called to Believe

SERIES:             Called

NEXT WEEK’S READING ASSIGNMENT:  Hebrews 11:6; Luke 16:16; Isaiah 40:3; Mark 9:24; Matthew 14:31; Luke 1:8-25; John 2:4; John 7:30; John 12:27; Psalm 25:5; Psalm 27:14; Psalm 62:5; Isaiah 40:31; Genesis 15:8; Judges 6:17; Matthew 11:3; John 11:39; John 20:25; Acts 12:14-15; Matthew 17:20; Habakkuk 2:4; Luke 18:1; Matthew 21:22; Ephesians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:20

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