A Good Neighbor (Luke 10:25-37)
When I got my first job right after college, I went and bought a new car. Understand that this car wasn’t anything special in and of itself–it was a Mazda Protege. But, it was brand new. It was the very first car I had ever bought. It was a deep red, my favorite color. I was very fond of that car.
One evening, before Tammy and I were married, I was over at her townhouse–She had fixed supper, I think. One of her neighbors backed right into my brand-new car. He only put the smallest of scratches on the car. In fact, all I really needed to do was put a UK license plate or something on the front of it, and you’d never know anything had happened. But, he was extremely kind and took care of it in an appropriate and timely fashion. I honestly remember his kindness as much as I remember anything else.
As I think about the places I’ve lived, I’ve mostly had good neighbors, but when I was growing up, Mom and Dad had some not-so-good neighbors. Our next-door neighbors loved a good party about 3 o’clock on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I can’t tell you the times that Dad would call the police to break up those drunken parties. One Friday evening, Dad took the youth group all-night bowling–that was always a big thing that we did. Everyone met at the church at 9 or so on this Friday evening, and they carpooled to the bowling alley. This time I wasn’t able to go because I was taking the ACT the next morning. But, the church had a nosey neighbor. She called the house about 3 in the morning to see if we knew why there were cars at church.
I know that some of you have had some experiences with neighbors. Maybe it’s been wild parties at all hours of the night. Maybe it’s been suspicious activity. Maybe it’s been an argument over property lines.
While we’ve probably had different types of neighbors, in this morning’s text Jesus tells us how to be a good neighbor. A lawyer, one educated in the Law of Moses, asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers that question, but He goes to a far more important issue. He teaches us how to be a good neighbor. “A good neighbor is a serving neighbor.”
Scripture (Luke 10:25-37)
A lawyer tested Jesus. As we’ve already said, this man was an expert in the Old Testament law. He should have already known the answer to his question. He does . . . He’s testing Jesus . . . This man is really only interested in making sure that Jesus answers the question the way he thinks it ought to be answered.
The lawyer asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Not a bad question to ask. In fact, it was a common question asked of rabbis in the time of Jesus.
Jesus asked the lawyer what he read in the Law. The lawyer responded with the two most important commands in the Law (Matt 22:34-40). If the lawyer loved God and his neighbor, he would live.
The lawyer wished to justify himself and asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The lawyer was wishing to justify himself. He isn’t interested in truth. He really wants to make himself look good.
Jews would normally considered fellow Jews–and only fellow Jews–as their neighbors. God had expanded the definition of “neighbor” to include the stranger who dwelt among the Israelites (Lev 19:34). But, you and I know there is often a huge disconnect between what God says and what man does–the Jews would never have considered a Gentile or Samaritan a “neighbor.”
A certain man . . . he is most likely a Jew; after all he is leaving Jerusalem.
He goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was quite treacherous. This was a stark and desolate 17-mile road. The road dropped from about 2,500 feet above sea level in Jerusalem to about 800 feet below sea level at Jericho. That is quite a drop for no more than 17 miles!
He is attacked, stripped of his clothing, and left for dead.
A priest and a Levite both came and passed by on the other side. Priests and Levites both served in the temple worship. Priests, as descendants of Aaron, ministered before the Lord; the Levites assisted the priests.
Contact with a dead person rendered one ceremonially unclean. Maybe the priest and Levite are concerned with ceremonial uncleanness. However, the priest is apparently finished with his temple duties, for the text says “a certain priest came down that road.”
A Samaritan came and had compassion on this man. If you are a Jew, that is not the way this parable is supposed to go. The Jews despised the Samaritans; they were enemies.
The Samaritan went to the injured man, bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. The man’s compassion prompts him to act. Proper compassion always brings about action. Oil and wine did have medicinal purposes. The oil would soothe the wounds. The wine served as a disinfectant.
What the Samaritan did cost him. He took the injured man to an inn and took care of him. He gave the innkeeper two denarii when he left. That would be the wages for two days of work. The Samaritan promises to pay the innkeeper whatever else he owes when he returns. The Samaritan cares more about this injured man he has never met than he does his own money. The Samaritan had to have a good reputation with the innkeeper–How else could he have simply said, “Put it on my tab”?
The lawyer had asked about his neighbor; Jesus now encourages him to say who his neighbor is. Notice that the lawyer can’t even utter the word “Samaritan.” Jesus tells him to go and do likewise.
“A good neighbor is a serving neighbor.” How do we put that into day to day practice?
We serve without distinction to race.
Jews and Samaritans hated one another. Yet, this Samaritan served a Jew without any regard to race.
The people of God cannot care about race. Jesus sat and talked with a Samaritan woman (Jn 4). “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16). Partiality in our service is expressly condemned: Js 2:1-4.
When we serve, we cannot care about race or socio-economic status. We must be equal opportunity servers!
We serve according to need.
The Good Samaritan went to the injured man and served him according to his need. Different people have different needs. The Good Samaritan served where the injured man needed him to serve–he bandaged his wounds and took care of him. The Samaritan didn’t lecture the man on the foolishness of traveling that road by himself when robbers were everywhere. The Samaritan didn’t try to replace everything that was stolen from this man. The Samaritan served as his injured neighbor had need.
God expects us to serve according to need. The early church gave to the needy “as anyone had need” (Acts 2:45). “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn 3:17).
The idea here is that we need to be good stewards of our money and time, and serve where there is a real need.
We serve at a cost.
We understand that serving is going to cost us. The Samaritan stepped outside his comfort zone to serve. He put his neighbor on his own animal, took him to an inn and paid for his care.
Serving is going to cost us. Serving cost Jesus His life: Matthew 20:28. Serving cost Barnabas money as he sold his lands and brought the proceeds to the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36-37). Serving might cost us money as we seek to help someone with a need. Serving is going to cost us time. It takes time to help other people. Serving might cost as someone tries to take advantage of us.
I want you to find someone this week whom you can serve. If you come to Monday Night for the Master tomorrow, you can serve many people and our Lord. Opportunities to serve abound. Won’t you serve? Jesus came and died for you that you might live eternally. Won’t you serve Him?