Be A Neighbor

I was taken aback in a recent re-reading of the Parable of the Good Samaritan by the way in which Jesus reframes a tricky question to deliver a stunning message.

Recall that the parable is prompted when a lawyer asks Jesus a series of very lawyerly questions (apologies to all my lawyer friends… but you know I’m right). The exchange goes like this:

The lawyer asks Jesus, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds, “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” The lawyer thinks for a moment and says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Jesus says, approvingly, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” And then the lawyer retorts, “And who is my neighbour?”

At this point Jesus tells the parable (Luke 10:30-35) which is ubiquitous enough that it does not need recounting here. And upon conclusion of the narrative, Jesus reengages the lawyer directly. Here is the exchange:

Jesus asks, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” The lawyer responds (with the only right answer), “He that shewed mercy on him.” Then said Jesus, “Go, and do thou likewise.”

Here is what I find really remarkable: By asking the question, “who is my neighbor” the lawyer tries to get Jesus to categorize and classify others, so that the lawyer can then say, “that group is my neighbor, and that group is not.” Jesus does not take the bait.

Instead, in his response Jesus recasts the issue entirely. “Neighbor” is not a group outside of ourselves. Instead of categorizing others, Jesus responds by clarifying you are to be a neighbor. “Neighbor” is something we are to others. Thus neighborliness, Jesus seems to say, should be our polestar when we engage with our fellow brothers and sisters on Earth. Jesus reinforces this by the command “Go, and do thou likewise.”

Imagine what life would be like if, instead of asking “which one of these people is my neighbor and which isn’t?” everyone started asking “how can I be a neighbor to the people around me?” I think the Gospel of Jesus requires nothing less.


  1. Paul Beer says:

    This is a brilliant analysis. Thanks!

  2. Paul Beer says:

    This is a brilliant analysis. Thank you.

  3. Antonio Parr says:

    Thank you for your post. Just wonderful.

    And I love your opening line about being “taken aback in a recent re-reading” of the words of Jesus. What an encouraging reminder of the hidden treasures waiting to be found when we embrace our sacramental covenant to always remember Him.

  4. Antonio Parr says:

    I continue to reflect upon and continue to be inspired by your post. Thank you for sharing your meditations on such an essential topic.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: