Monday, February 15, 2021

Who is My Neighbor?


We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. The context of the story is an expert in the law wanting to test Jesus by asking Him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him, “What is written in the Law?” and “How do you read it?” The man correctly replies with Scripture from Deut. 6:5 to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength” and from Lev. 19:18 to “love your neighbor as yourself”.


Luke 10:29 – But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”


Things to think about:

·       Those six words from the man strike at the heart of an important aspect of human nature – “but he wanted to justify himself”

o   Sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously, we look to excuse ourselves from taking responsibility for the well-being of others.

§  In this case, the man uses a time-tested ploy of getting technical with the definition of the word “neighbor’.  Remember Bill Clinton’s famous, “That depends on what the meaning of the word is is?”

§  Whether we are trying to get out from under a responsibility or assuage our conscience, clever manipulation of a plain truth doesn’t pass muster with God.

·       We have a responsibility to see to the needs of others. In this parable, Jesus identifies three types of people and thus three kinds of responses that we can have with respect to loving our neighbor as ourself.

o   The priest – I’m a busy professional and I don’t have time. Let someone who’s not as busy (and important) take care of it.

o   The Levite – I’m just a layperson, this is a job for a professional.

o   The Samaritan – I’m here and they need help – I’ll do it.

§  Even though we’re from different social strata and may not have a lot in common

§  A literal interpretation of neighbor may cloud our response since our next-door neighbors tend to look more like ourselves.

·       Ironically, the one coming to the aid of the injured Jew was viewed as inferior (a half-breed) by the Jews. So it wasn’t even a matter of the Samaritan deigning to reach down the social ladder but quite the opposite.  The Samaritan could have said, “Serves him right, that pompous Jew!”

o   Alternatively, he could have reacted by saying, “Somebody like me can’t help him.  He has more social status than me.  It would be awkward and weird to help.”

o   Depending on the circumstances, do we sometimes play the part of the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan?

§  At work, not taking the time to help a junior associate who would benefit from your guidance

§  With ministry, opting out because of a lack of formal training

§  Socially, not participating because of social norms or general discomfort with folks who don’t look or act like you?

·       What are other factors that might have us not count someone as a neighbor?

o   Political affiliation

o   Race

o   Sexual orientation

o   Country of origin

o   Relative wealth or poverty

o   Personal style (preppy, hip hop, cowboy, etc.)

·       It would be great to hear the rest of the story

o   Did the two men and their families become friends?

o   Did they model for their respective people what God’s love really looks like?

o   Did they cause people who may have been raised with biases and prejudices to rethink their ways?

·       By abdicating responsibility, assessing blame, or making excuses, we justify ourselves. Jesus clearly paints a different picture of what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

o   So, who is our neighbor as Jesus would have us understand it?

o   How do we model loving our neighbors to not justify ourselves but bring honor to God?

Monday, February 8, 2021

At the Intersection of Knowledge and Discretion


Knowing the right thing to do is one thing, but doing it is something else.  Anyone who has kids already knows this (“How many times have I told you to…?!)  Our versus below struck me in that it illustrates two contributing factors to wisdom – the right information and the right action.


Proverbs 8:12 – I, Wisdom, dwell together with Prudence.  I possess Knowledge and Discretion


Things to think about:

·       In the Information Age we do not struggle for enough data, facts, and information.  What we sorely lack sometimes is Wisdom – the ability to act upon the truths we know.

·       I got to thinking about four possible combinations:

o   Right Information or Wrong Information

o   Right Action or Wrong Action

o   For example,

§  Wrong Information with Right Action could be religious works.  The person did something “good” but for faulty reasons (God will accept me)

§  Wrong information with Wrong Action at best is ignorance (Oh, I didn’t know) and at worst just might be plain foolishness (I don’t know and I don’t care)

§  Right Information with Wrong Action could be denial or active sin (I know this isn’t right but I’m going to do it anyway…OR rationalizing – This isn’t wrong for me in this circumstance because…)

§  Right Information with Right Action is Wisdom

·       Sometimes we act without thinking

o   Could be a rash or emotional decision

o   This is not showing discretion or prudence

o   Could reflect a lack of counselors or people to hold us accountable

·       In James 1:22-25 we are told, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

o   What do you make of the analogy of looking at a mirror and then forgetting what you look like?

·       What do you think are the biggest stumbling blocks for not acting on the information we have?

o   What insights have you gained that helps you to combat this in your own life?

·       The promises of wisdom are plentiful and wonderful

o   Proverbs 3:16 - Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words

o   Proverbs 1:33 - whoever listens to me will live in safety
    and be at ease, without fear of harm

o   Proverbs 2:9 - Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path

o   Proverbs 3:2 - will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity

·       May God, through His Holy Spirit, gives us both the Knowledge and the Discretion to live lives that build His Kingdom and bring Him honor and glory.