And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
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.’”
And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
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. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 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. 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.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)
This is story about reaching out and helping a person in need. A neighbor is not necessarily someone who lives next door or in the same neighborhood. It is person who needs your kindness, compassion, help. This young ruler knew the law. He understood it. Jesus wanted him to put what he knew into practice. The law is not just there for us to memorize it but to live it. Jesus wanted the lawyer to understand that God’s law was governed by love. It seems as if the lawyer got a little defensive when Jesus told him love his neighbor as himself. He probably felt pleased with himself when Jesus told him that he had answered his question correctly and didn’t expect to be told that he needed to do more. So, he wanted to know who his neighbor was.
Jesus told him the story, which illustrated that the injured man was not shown compassion by those whom he would have considered to be his neighbors—men who were supposed to be godly (priestly). Instead he received help from a Samaritan, whom the Jews considered to be their enemies. Jesus wanted to teach this lawyer that a neighbor could be someone you might never consider under normal circumstances.
Today, Jesus wants us to help the homeless man laying in the street, or the teen who ran away from an abusive home, the alcoholic or drug addict who wants to come clean or the unwed mother who needs food. He wants us to live the law rather than merely recite it.