When We Already Know Who Our Neighbor Is

who is my neighbor?

Just like the lawyer who claimed he didn’t know who his neighbor was, my kid could do a good job of feigning innocence.

There was the day I told him, “Go to the bathroom and brush your teeth!”

“Well, how much toothpaste shall I use? Shall I use too much?” he asked.

“Yes, go ahead and use too much,” I replied.

What a question!

We were living in a cracker-box house with five kids. The dining room was the center room and it opened to the kitchen, a bedroom, the living room, and the bathroom. This same kid was standing right in the center of that dining room and the bathroom was a mere two feet away from him.

who my neighbor is

“Go to the bathroom and wash your hands before we eat,” I told him.

He didn’t want to, probably because I, his mother, was telling him to go.

“Well, where is the bathroom?” he asked.

As if he didn’t know.

Every time I read about the Samaritan story Jesus told and I hear the question of the lawyer who, wanting to justify himself, asked, “Well then, who is my neighbor?” I think about my kid.

Really. Where is the bathroom?  Do you want me to use too much toothpaste? Who is my neighbor? As if he didn’t already know.

who my neighbor is

No matter the country in which we live, no matter whether we’re a child or an adult, we’ve got this genetic tendency to feign innocence when we already know the truth. It’s usually because we’re not ready to cooperate and do what we are supposed to do.

That Good Samaritan Story

So it’s a normal day and people are milling around, asking questions of Jesus. A certain lawyer comes to him. In typical lawyer fashion, he tries to pin Jesus down and make himself look innocent when apparently he already knows he’s guilty. Why else would scripture say this attorney wanted to justify himself?!

He asks a simple question about what he has to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus turns around and asks him about the commandments, which includes loving your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus simply tells him, “Then just go. Just do what you already told me you are to do: love God with your heart, soul, and mind – and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Who my neighbor is in this universe

The man feigns innocence. How can he love his neighbor if he doesn’t know who his neighbor really is?! I mean, it’s a big, wide world out there. How is he to know who his neighbor is?! Basically, he’s trying to get off the hook. How much toothpaste should I use?!

So Jesus tells a story to illustrate what I’m sure the man already knows. Yet the story is painted with such clearness that a person can’t deny which of the three characters is neighborly to the wounded, robbed man. The priest and Levite have the opportunity, but they pass by on the other side. Along comes the Samaritan – the half-breed Gentile/Jew – whose worth is viewed as less than that of the same priest and Levite who refused to help.

My neighbor

The Samaritan shows compassion in caring for the man, finding a place for him to stay, and funding his needs completely. This good, kind Samaritan gave his Time, his Talents, and his Treasure to help this certain man.

This time, when Jesus asks the lawyer, “Who acted like a neighbor?” he doesn’t reply with a question. This savvy lawyer knows the answer and he also knows that Jesus knows that he knows.

“The man who showed mercy,” he admits.

Jesus has only one more thing to say to him. “Then go. Just be a neighbor like him.”

Your Time, your Talent, your Treasure. Give it to help those who need help.

Don’t try to weasel your way out of helping by feigning innocence, busyness, or lack of funds. Where is the bathroom?!  Others might not see through it, but Jesus will. I know, because He sees right through my excuses.

It’s true that there are times when we really don’t have time at that moment because of other responsibilities; sometimes we barely have enough to pay our own bills; at times our talents have been committed in other places. God knows all of that. He doesn’t ask us to do what we are not able to do. He knows whether we care about our neighbor or whether we are just making excuses.

Read the story in Luke 10:25-37.  It will help clear any cobwebs you might have about what it means to be a neighbor. Then go and be neighborly just like this man was. ‘Cause when you already know who your neighbor is, you don’t even have to ask.

It’s not so much not knowing that is the problem – it’s doing what we know we ought to do.  Then we don’t even have to ask who our neighbor is – because we already know.

Who is your neighbor?  How are you sharing your Time, your Talents, and your Treasure?

I would love to hear your stories about sharing your Time, your Talent, and your Treasures with your neighbor!

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