Who Are Our Neighbors?

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, a lawyer (an expert in the Law of Moses) attempts to test Jesus by asking him “just who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus then recounts the story, which most of us attribute to a lesson regarding mercy.

It is that, and so much more.

In the story, Jesus never mentions that the wounded man is a Jew. It is likely that his audience would have inferred this since they were Jewish; however, Jesus, always the masterful teacher, intentionally makes it so that the man cannot be identified.

The man is said to have been stripped and beaten (Luke 10:30), and we never hear the man speak. By doing this, Jesus makes this character an “any man” figure…he is thus devoid of social position, ethnic background, or religion.

In order to understand the full context of the parable, we need to examine some of the possible motivations behind the inaction of the priest and the Levite.

The priest risked defilement by even approaching a non-Jew, and how could he know this about the man if he had been stripped? The Levites assisted the priests in the temple and would have been subjected to many of the same rules.

This road, between Jericho and Jerusalem, is only 17 miles in length, and yet it drops almost 3,000 feet in altitude. It was treacherous, and known as the “Way of Blood” due to the many robbers that operated there.

So it’s quite plausible that the priest and the Levite suspected something nefarious upon seeing this man on the side of the road.

The Samaritan, who was not a gentile, was also subject to many of the same rules governing cleanliness. He would have also known of the treachery inherent on this road.

The Samaritan would not have been from this area, and this man would certainly not have qualified as his neighbor. In fact there was great animosity between Samaritans and Jews during this time, for reasons that we will save for another article.

Yet the Samaritan helps this man. He risks defilement by caring for his wounds and bringing him to a nearby town.

He forfeits his anonymity by staying at the inn overnight, paying 2 denarii (about 2 day’s wages), and then tells the innkeeper that he will return to pay compensation for further costs.

He does this without any expectation that he will be paid back.

Then Jesus asks the lawyer: “Which of these three [out of the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan] do you think proved to be a neighbor?”

And the lawyer answered: “The one who showed mercy toward him.”

Jesus responds: “Go and do the same.”

Addiction strips us of our dignity…it beats us down with merciless ferocity until we seek a different way to live. Addiction knows no boundaries. It serves to destroy our connections with our neighbors…the people with whom we share our lives. Who are our neighbors? They are simply the people with whom we have rejoiced, cried, celebrated, and fellowshipped.

Someone once showed me mercy, and also showed me a new way to live…a life without the chains of addiction. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” If you or someone you know is hurting from addiction, please let them know there is treatment available at a place that shows mercy and compassion. There is hope, and you can have the life you deserve full of dignity and love at New Day Recovery.

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