From the perspective of holiness –
"But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, and who is my neighbour?"
Luke chapter ten and verse twenty nine records a question asked by a certain lawyer. This individual was not a legal practitioner as we have come to know but rather one who interprets and is considered to be an expert about the Torah.
“An expert in Torah stood up to try and trap him by asking, "Rabbi, what should I do to obtain eternal life?"
(Luke 10:25 CJB)
This lawyer’s motives are clearly to trick and trap Jesus into saying something that could be used against him as I am confident that he knew the answer to the question. Indeed, he was attempting to get Jesus to place one commandment above another. In a typical Jewish fashion, Jesus turns the table around on him by asking him a couple of questions, "What is written in the law? How readest thou?" (verse 26). This lawyer’s answer was approved by Jesus and no doubt was a direct reference to the following passages found in the Torah:
“And he answering said, 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. (28) And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: (5) And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”
These passages from the Torah are critical in forming the foundation of our understanding of ‘who is my neighbor’ as the parable of the Good Samaritan by itself does not completely answer the question. Indeed you cannot adequately answer the question without the Torah.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan answers the question of how I act when someone is brought near to me that is in need. Will I act with compassion? Or perhaps the better question is do I have the compassion to act? Have I experienced God acting in His compassion toward me by virtue of Him drawing near to me in my need? And if I have been the beneficiary of His drawing near and yet refuse those who He brings near to me how can I expect God to balance that out? Indeed, Jesus’ final words to this lawyer of the law lend credence:
“And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a perfect picture of how to treat someone who has been brought near to you. This is in fact the definition of the Hebrew word for neighbor (rea’) found in Leviticus 19:18. This Hebrew word means an associate (more or less close). In other words it is a person who has been brought near to you.
While this Hebrew word certainly does include in its definition someone who lives near you or across the street from you it also applies to all those who you have been brought in contact with by virtue of proximity and or association. For example let us look at the first use of this Hebrew word:
And they said one to another,H7453 (rea’) Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
Obviously there is represented here in Genesis chapter eleven more than one household and certainly they were not all neighbors in the classical sense of physical dwelling place. However, they were all brought near one another by virtue of purpose.
So the answer to the question ‘who is my neighbor’ is found in another question. Who is brought near to you by God? Certainly it includes those who live next door but also includes your co-workers and bosses. It includes soccer moms, classmates, teammates, waiters, cashiers, or anyone else that is brought near to you during the course of life.
Remember the key here is anyone who God brings near to you. You do not have to go out and sell all you possess and actively seek neighbors. Just be willing to act when God brings someone near to you.
The Holiness Perspective
Wherever we find the topic of holiness within Scripture we find it first being applied to those nearest to us. (i.e., God as He relates to us and us as we relate to family) We are expected, by God, to practice holiness to those closest to us first and then by extension to our neighbors.
A perfect example of this is found in Leviticus chapter nineteen. It begins with “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.” From here we launch into the closest of relationships that of the immediate family.
“Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.”
When is the last time you heard a message on holiness that included the subject of revering one’s parents or keeping God’s sabbaths?
Holiness means sacred or separated. In order to be sacred I must be separated from the unclean and impure but I cannot stop there as I must be separated unto or draw near to that which is clean and pure.
The next few verses deal with issues of keeping nearness. Do not bring idols near you for they separate (vs.4). Do make Peace offerings for they foster nearness (vs. 5-8)
The reader should take note of the immediate transition that follows verse eight. Holiness now extends to my neighbor. My neighbor is not obligated to extend Holiness which fosters nearness but rather I am the one extending holiness as a result of nearness to God.
The following outline gives us an application of ….
‘how to love your neighbor as yourself’
1. Verse 9-10 - I love my neighbor by being GENEROUS (giving and hospitality) … thereby DEMONSTRATING MY LOVE
“When you harvest the ripe crops produced in your land, don't harvest all the way to corners of your field, and don't gather the ears of grain left by the harvesters. Likewise, don't gather the grapes left on the vine or fallen on the ground after harvest; leave them for the poor and the foreigner; I am ADONAI your God.”
There must be a daily denying of myself (refusing the extra or excess prosperity)
I Corinthians 13:3 re-enforces this thought and takes it even further in that we must give out of a right motive (love).
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
Adam Clarke Commentary says:
(1 Corinthians 13:3)
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor - This is a proof that charity, in our sense of the word, is not what the apostle means; for surely almsgiving can go no farther than to give up all that a man possesses in order to relieve the wants of others. The word ψωμιζω, which we translate to feed the poor, signifies to divide into morsels, and put into the mouth; which implies carefulness and tenderness in applying the bounty thus freely given.
2. Verses 11-13 – respect your neighbors POSSESSIONS … thereby DEMONSTRATING MY LOVE
“Do not steal from, defraud or lie to each other. (12) Do not swear by my name falsely, which would be profaning the name of your God; I am ADONAI. (13) Do not oppress or rob your neighbor; specifically, you are not to keep back the wages of a hired worker all night until morning.”
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,”
(1 Corinthians 13:4)
Adam Clarke Commentary says:
Charity envieth not - Ου ζηλοι· Is not grieved because another possesses a greater portion of earthly, intellectual, or spiritual blessings. Those who have this pure love rejoice as much at the happiness, the honor, and comfort of others, as they can do in their own. They are ever willing that others should be preferred before them.
3. Verses 11 and 12 – be TRUTHFUL … thereby DEMONSTRATING MY LOVE
“Do not steal from, defraud or lie to each other. (12) Do not swear by my name falsely, which would be profaning the name of your God; I am ADONAI.”
“Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;” I Corinthians 13:6)
Do not take pleasure in injustice but rather in truth.
4. Verse 14 – respect VULNERABILITY … thereby DEMONSTRATING MY LOVE
“Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.”
(Leviticus 19:14 KJV)
“ Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;”
(1 Corinthians 13:5KJV)
Barnes Notes says:
It means to conduct improperly, or disgracefully, or in a manner to deserve reproach. Love seeks that which is proper or becoming in the circumstances and relations of life in which we are placed. It prompts to the due respect for superiors, producing veneration and respect for their opinions; and it prompts to a proper regard for inferiors, not despising their rank, their poverty, their dress, their dwellings, their pleasures, their views of happiness; it prompts to the due observance of all the “relations” of life, as those of a husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, son, daughter, and produces a proper conduct and deportment in all these relations. The proper idea of the phrase is, that it prompts to all that is fit and becoming in life; and would save from all that is unfit and unbecoming.
5. Verse 16 – resist gossip and evil speech … thereby DEOMONSTRATING MY LOVE
“Do not go around spreading slander among your people, but also don't stand idly by when your neighbor's life is at stake; I am ADONAI.”
(Leviticus 19:16 CJB)
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”
(1 Corinthians 13:1 KJV)
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, argued like a child; now that I have become a man, I have finished with childish ways.”
(1 Corinthians 13:11 CJB)
“ He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.”
(Proverbs 17:9 KJV)
“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”
(1 Peter 4:8 KJV)
RABBINICAL TEACHING compares the tongue to an arrow. The question is why not another weapon? Why not compare the tongue to the sword for example?
The answer is given as follows:
If a man unsheathes his sword to kill his friend and his friend begs for mercy, the man who has drawn his sword may be appeased and return his sword to his sheave. However once a man releases his arrow in anger it cannot be recalled or returned to his quiver. And so it is when the TONGUE is loosed!
“And having an high priest over the house of God; (22) Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (23) Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (24) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (25) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Leviticus 19 is the Holiness chapter and gives us an explanation of what true holiness looks like.
Introduction: “Ye shall be holy” (v. 1-2)
1. Revere parents (v. 3)
2. Keep and Honor Sabbath (v. 3)
3. No idols (v. 4)
4. Peace offerings (v. 5-8)
5. Generosity (Leavings for the needy) (v. 9-10)
6. Honesty (v. 11-12)
7. Justice for the helpless (v. 13-14)
8. Impartial justice and protecting your neighbor’s reputation (v. 15)
9. No Gossip or slander (a scandal monger) (v. 16)
10. Love and forsaking vengeance (v. 17-18)
11. No Mixing (v. 19)
12. Protections for a vulnerable slave woman (v. 20-22)
13. Fruit of the land (v. 23-25)
14. Separation from death (v. 26-28)
15. Protection of children (daughters) (v. 29)
16. Honor the Sanctuary (v. 30)
17. Avoidance of the cultic (mediums) (v. 31)
18. Honoring the elderly (v. 32)
19. Protecting aliens and helpless (v. 33-34)
20. Honesty in scales and business (v. 35-36)
Conclusion: “Keep my statues, and all my judgments,” (v.37)