Who is My Neighbor?

by Bryan Ruby, Bethel Christian Writers

Has anyone ever set you up with a loaded question? And somewhere deep in the recesses of your mind, you knew it would be better to feign a kidney stone than respond? Maybe the query came across with a masked, Bambi-ish innocence, but still ended with dueling pistols at dawn.

Pharisees, priests, and teachers of the Law tried throwing Jesus under the chariot with loaded inquires. After all, they were the legal eagles as far as the Law was concerned. But there lies the rub. They were on the losing side of these debates from the beginning of Jesus’ three-year ministry. Why? The Giver of the Law and its fulfillment was standing right in front of their pious faces.

This specific tug-of-war known as The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), follows on the heels of Jesus celebrating with the seventy-two who had been sent out and returned (Luke 10:17-24).

An expert in the Torah wasted no time and stood up to test this poser from Nazareth. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (10:25b)?

Jesus returns the question with a question. “What is written in the Law and how do you read it?” 

The scholar most likely cradled his leather encased phylactery filled with Torah verses. This unschooled carpenter would be no match for his intellect and position.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” After a pause, or a pose, will you, he concluded, “And love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Jesus strokes his ego. “You’ve answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

Coming off a win, he makes a disastrous move to justify himself with the million-denarius question. “And who is my neighbor?” There’s a collective hush in the crowd. He knows the list most certainly excludes lepers, tax collectors, Romans, political foes, and that know-it-all at the Temple Gate. He could go on and on, ending with the least desired unneighborly neighbors of them all, Samaritans.  

Since Jesus knew the thoughts of his heart, He answered the question with a simple story.

A man on a journey was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. 

A priest happens by and feels . . . nothing. His schedule would go on as planned after passing by on the other side of the road.

A Levite, maybe coming from a holy festival and with no time for mercy, also passes by on the other side.

A Samaritan on a journey of his own, sees the bloodied man, has compassion, and puts his plans on hold. After dressing the wounds and gently resting the man on his animal, he takes him to the nearest inn.

Jesus ends His story by describing this half-gentile, half-Jewish traveler with a double dose of kindness. Toward a stranger. A stranger who might despise him if conscious.

His eyes went soft, yet piercing. “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 

Enter the elephant in the room. A Samaritan hero? Don’t you wish you could’ve been a locust on the wall during Jesus’ story? The scowls. The half-smiles. The anticipation of what was coming.

The rattled expert couldn’t even bring himself to say the S word. He’d rather kiss a leper on the mouth than admit a Samaritan came out on top of a priest or Levite—those deemed worthy and acceptable of being his 


His throat went dry as the dirt below his lavish sandals. “The . . . the one who showed mercy to him.”

Jesus ends His story with a final, Holy Spirit gut punch. “GO and DO the same.” 


Today, in a world torn apart by anger, judgment, and divisions, the question we need to desperately ask ourselves as Jesus followers is the same . . . who are our neighbors? Are they so because of geographical locations? Are they neighbors because of shared beliefs or church affiliations? And, are they our neighbors because they bleed the same red or blue?

The Samaritan didn’t need a map, or a label to pigeonhole the guy who had been beaten, stripped, and left for dead. He only saw a stranger in need of mercy and compassion. Someone to love unconditionally! So, he did.

The answer to the neighbor question is the same as it was 2000 years ago. And the same answer the expert had to weigh in his conscience from that day forward after being asked by Jesus, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor?”

“The one who showed mercy.” 

Let these words be the litmus test for every one of us who calls Him Lord. Because, when Jesus says, “Go and Do the same,” will we be that kind of neighbor?

“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.”   Jesus