[Jesus said] “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? He [the lawyer] said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”
If being or living in close proximity to another defines “neighbor,” then we all have neighbors. For people living in the country, especially farmland areas, the closest neighbor may be miles away rather than right next door. Yes, we all have neighbors!
In this story we see that the man who fell into the hands of robbers had at least three neighbors. One was a priest, another was a Levite, and the third was a foreigner, a man from Samaria. They all met the requirement of “neighbor” by being in close proximity to the man who fell into the hands of robbers. The first two, the priest and the Levite, may have been too busy with their own concerns to help the wounded man. The priest and the Levite may have questioned the authenticity of the situation, thinking that if they helped then they might become victims themselves. They may have not wanted to risk becoming unclean by coming into contact with the wounded man’s blood or worse, if he died and became a corpse. Whatever reason, they failed to show mercy to the man in need.
When the third neighbor came along, he felt compassion and pity for the man wounded, bleeding and quite frankly dying on the hot, dusty road from Jerusalem to Jericho. He came to the victim, poured oil and wine on his wounds. He bandaged them and then lifted the man up to ride on his own animal. He took his “neighbor” to an inn and cared for him throughout the night. The next day the man paid the innkeeper a sum to continue caring for the man and he promised to repay him whatever he spent in nursing him back to health upon his return. This foreigner, this man from Samaria, proved to be the good neighbor to the wounded man.
Jesus then asks the lawyer, whose question initiated Jesus telling this story, a question. Jesus asks, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The lawyer answers, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus tells the lawyer, “Go and do likewise.”
Obviously with this broadened definition of “neighbor,” you and I cannot minister to all with who we are in close proximity and needing assistance. Like the boy who flung starfish back into the sea, we can make a difference to this one and to that one, to the one over here and the one over there. We can show compassion to some and make a difference in their lives. Worthy of our reflection is the question: Am I being a neighbor more than I am being a good neighbor? We can’t leave it all up to State Farm. (“Like a good neighbor State Farm is there!”)
Blessed Lord, we have been the “neighbors” in need and we have known how much it means to have “good neighbors.” Keep us mindful that neighbors can be strangers and that neighbors are more than those who live right around us. Guard us from being the ones who always receive and often fail to give of ourselves. Help us to be “good neighbors!” In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.