Who Is My Neighbor?
In the tenth chapter of Luke, verses 25 through 37 we read of a conversation, which took place between Jesus and a young man who asked him this question, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" In answering this question Jesus said, among other things, "Thou shalt ... love thy neighbor as thyself." In order to justify himself the young man asked, "And who is my neighbor?" The answer Jesus gave is what we commonly speak of as "The Parable of the Good Samaritan."
You will remember that in this parable Jesus pictured a man on the road to Jericho who had been robbed and left half dead by the roadside. The priest and the Levite passed him by without giving help, but the Samaritan, though despised by the Jews, rendered first aid, and took the wounded man to the inn, leaving enough money to pay for his care until he was recovered. The young man got the point and could see clearly, who his neighbor was.
This is the best answer that has ever been given to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Our neighbor is not necessarily just the person who lives next door; but rather is any person, irrespective of race or color, and regardless of where he may chance to be. We show ourselves to be a good neighbor when we help those in need, as was this helpless, wounded man. While this is the dominant lesson, which Jesus desired to teach, yet there are other lessons, which should not escape our attention.
In this parable Jesus portrayed a miniature world --a world of which each of us is a part. He divides all men into four separate and distinct groups. He depicts four different types of character. We all belong to one group or the other. Let us ask ourselves the question, which of these characters describes me best? To which group do I belong?
The Hurt Man
The first character introduced is the hurt man--the man who had been so unfortunate as to fall among the thieves who wounded and robbed him. The world is full of hurt men. There are some who have been robbed of virtue and innocence due to the negligence and delinquency of their parents. We hear much about, and our society is suffering much from juvenile delinquency. However, for every effect there is a cause. Those who have made the most thorough study of this evil are agreed that juvenile delinquency is an effect, not a cause. The cause is parental delinquency; the inescapable effect is juvenile delinquency. We shall never be rid of this evil until parents are awakened to a full sense of their responsibility to their children. Until such time, we are under moral obligation to be neighbor to those who are thus hurt.
Some have been robbed of opportunity. They are victims of circumstances. They were born on the wrong side of the tracks. Poverty has held them down. They may be equally as alert mentally, and potentially as useful as the wellborn, but their chance in life has been limited. They need a life; they need counsel and encouragement. They need a neighbor to help them.
Some have been robbed of their faith. No man has been hurt worse than the man who has been robbed of his faith in God, in Christ, and in the eternal verities of life. He has lost the shield that protects him from the fiery darts of the wicked one. He has lost the propeller that drives him ever on in spite of the headwinds. He has lost the wings that lift him above the perplexities and discouragements of this earth life. He has lost the ballast that helps him keep an even keel as he sails upon life's fretful and tempestuous sea. He has lost the all-powerful incentive, which will give him ultimate victory over the world. Seeing a man walking on a crutch, John Troland was inspired to say, "Alas! That man has lost a leg, Yet with radiant face he walks complacent on his peg, with compensating grace. But there goes one across the way who needs compassion much; He lost his faith in heaven one day--for him there is no crutch."
Others have been hurt in that they have been deceived. They are suffering from deep spiritual wounds inflicted by evil and designing men. They have been spiritually wounded by some pretender who poses as a Christian, but who is a hypocrite. We should not permit ourselves to be hurt by such despicable characters, but unfortunately some who are weak in the faith are thus robbed. Some have been misguided by false teachers and are on the wrong track religiously, even though they may be the best of people, and are very conscientious and sincere. They are sorely in need of the help of some good Samaritan.
The Hurting Man
The second character, which Jesus depicts in this parable is the hurting man. There would be no hurt men were it not for the hurting man. When men were robbed, there must be a robber. Who are the robbers who do the hurting? There are some who intentionally and maliciously rob others of their character. This is often by lustful men who care nothing for the character of others, but only for the gratification of their own animal passions.
There are some who either intentionally or unintentionally rob others of their reputation by idle gossip. What others say about us cannot rob us of our character, but it can and often does hurt our reputation and ruin our usefulness. All Christians should remember that James said, "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."
There are others who belong in the class with the hurting man because of their love for money. The man who makes and sells liquor cares nothing about the ruined lives, wrecked homes, broken hearts, fatherless children, crippled men and women, and lost souls that result from this nefarious business. He is interested only in his ungodly and illgotten gain.
Those who write and those who sell sex magazines, love lore and pornographic literature care nothing about the far-reaching influence it may have upon young hearts, and otherwise pure characters of misguided youth. They are thinking only of the almighty dollar. Those who write and those who sell crime comics are contributing, perhaps more than any other group, to the ever-growing group of delinquents who now pose such a problem to our society. Parents who permit their children to read such filth are also guilty, and cannot escape being classed with the hurting man.
The Heedless Man
The third character, which Jesus describes in this parable is the heedless man. Both the priest and the Levite saw the wounded man. They recognized his need, and perhaps heard his cry for help, but they passed by on the other side. The other side may be the most popular, and the easier side; it may be, and usually is, the side of least resistance, but it is the wrong side. Both the priest and the Levite were religious. They were supposedly God's men. The priest wore the robe and officiated at the altar; the Levite belonged to the priestly tribe, but both failed to adorn their calling. We might expect the sinner to be heedless, but both God and man expect more of Christians. In writing Christians, Paul said. "As we therefore have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them which are of the household of faith."
The Helping Man
The fourth and final character, which Jesus mentions is the helping man. We remember him as the good Samaritan. He is the one that the world would least expect to be helpful. The Samaritans were half Jew and half Gentile, and were generally despised by both. Yet this was the man who dismounted, rendered first aid, and nursed back to life the man who had been robbed and left to die. He was the good neighbor. All genuine Christians belong to the class represented by the good Samaritan. They are never too busy, no job is too big, and no task is too difficult if the need is genuine, and the opportunity is offered to serve God and their fellow-man --they stand ready to do what they can.
Three Planes of Life
In this parable we also find plainly set forth three planes of living. We are all living on one or the other of these three planes. First, there is the law of the jungle, or the law of tooth and fang. Most animals and some men live on this plane. The law of the jungle is the law of their life. They are dominated by the idea that it is only the fit who survive, and their whole purpose in life is to be among the survivors, regardless of the cost to others. In the parable, this class is represented by the robbed.
While people in this first class are determined to live, at all costs, there are others, represented by the priest and Levite who say they want to live and let live. They just want what is coming to them, but if the other fellow wants what is coming to him, let him get it in the best way he can, but not expect any assistance from them. That law of life may be fair, but it is not Christian.
The third plane of living or law of life is represented by the good Samaritan. While the robber wanted to live, irrespective of the rights of others; and while the priest and the Levite were content to live and let live, the good Samaritan desired not only to live, but to help others live. This was the plane on which Christ lived, and is the plane on which all Christians live today.
This parable also sets forth three philosophies of life. The philosophy of the robber was: "What is shine is mine, I'll take it." The philosophy of the priest and Levite was: "What is mine is mine, I'll keep it." That of the Samaritan was: "What is mine is shine, let's share it." Friends, what is your philosophy of life? By which law do you live? Do you belong to the class with the hurt man, the hurting man, the heedless man, or the helping man?
Truth Magazine VII: 7, pp. 8-9, 24