Helping Our Neighbors Should Be More Important Than Following Religious Rules
A man comes up to Jesus. The guy’s an expert in Jewish law. Today we might call him a theologian. He asks Jesus a question, “What should I do to earn eternal life?”
The answer is simple. There are two steps. Love God and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. It’s that easy. Love God and love others. Then you’ll have eternal life.
Who Is Our Neighbor?
This must make the theologian squirm, because he asks Jesus, “Well, who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus gives him a parable, that many people call the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is how it goes.
Robbers beat up a man and leave him for dead.
A religious leader (a priest) walks by and ignores the man. Later another religious person (a Levite) does the same.
It could be they’re in a hurry or that helping this hurting stranger will somehow cause them to break one of their religious rules. Or it may be that they just don’t care. Regardless they fail to help their neighbor in need.
Then a religious outcast (a Samaritan) comes upon the wounded man. The Samaritan attends to the man’s injuries, takes him to a safe place, and pays someone to look after him.
“Which of these three men,” Jesus asks, “was a good neighbor to the hurting man?”
The answer is the Samaritan, but the religious theologian can’t bring himself to say that word out loud. Instead he merely says, “the one who showed mercy.”
Jesus then tells the theologian to go and do the same thing.
Be a Good Samaritan
Though the religious people of the day dismissed and even despised Samaritans, it is the Samaritan—the good Samaritan—who does the right thing and earns Jesus’s approval.
Who are we in the story? Are we religious insiders who fail to help our neighbors in need, or are we someone who pushes religious rules and people’s expectations aside to do what is right? Or may it be we’re like the theologian who would rather focus on words then action.
Though I want to be like the Good Samaritan, I fear that too often religion gets in my way.
Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.