Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?” He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?” He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence – and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?” Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead.
“Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill – I’ll pay you on my way back.’”
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
We’ve heard many people preach on this story about the Samaritan and how, despite the fact that he was a member of a group hated by the Jews, he stopped and helped a Jewish man. What is frequently missed is the role of the Levite and the priest.
Remember that Jesus told this story to one of the leaders of the Pharisee sect. It contains a warning as to one of the excesses that religion can lead us all into.
Notice that the first two that passed by the wounded man were religious leaders: the first a priest, the second a Levite, one of the keepers of the temple in Jerusalem. These men were enthusiastic about serving God in the way that they best understood.
The key here is that he was left half-dead. To passers-by he would’ve looked like a corpse, or nearly so. By Jewish law the dead were unclean and anyone that touched a dead body would be unclean.
The Levite and the priest were on their way to conduct service for the Lord. If they had stopped to assist this man and he died, they would be unclean and, by law, would be forbidden from entering the temple until the following evening.
“I’m on my way to do what’s really important and serve the Lord in his temple,” they must’ve thought. “Anyone can stop and help this man. I’m sure someone will be along any minute.”
These men were so caught up in what they thought was doing God’s work, that they missed an opportunity to do the real thing.
For Christians, serving the Lord is not something that goes on when we go to church, it’s what we do during the week. Going to church is important for us to recharge our batteries for the week ahead. It’s during the week that we pour out what we’ve received by being servants to the people around us.
When the widow woman came to Elisha in I Kings 4 and asked for help to pay her bills, Elisha said, “What do you have in your house?”
She told him, “A little oil.” Oil is a symbol of the anointing. The churches are filled with people hungry for the anointing of the Lord. We all want more. How do we get more?
Elisha told her to gather together the vessels of her friends and neighbors and fill them up with oil and as long as she was pouring into them, she would never run out.
What do you have in your house?
When the disciples came to Jesus in Mark and asked him how they were going to feed the multitude, Jesus said, “You feed them.” They then protested that it would cost all this money to feed them. Jesus simply replied, “How many loaves do you have?”
The ministry we do as Christians starts in our own neighborhood. If you can’t take your block for Jesus, how are you going to take a nation?
Evangelists and missionaries start in their grocery store, in the restaurant you have dinner with your family, at your local bar. These are the ones that need to know who Jesus is.
And you don’t have to preach for them. Jesus said, “They shall know you by your love.” After you’ve spent months or even a couple of years sowing into the lives of those around you, you can tell them anything you want about Jesus and they will lap it up like a sponge because for the first time in their lives, they’ve seen real fruit about what being a servant of the Lord really means.
Your home is a beacon of light in your neighborhood. Your neighbors see lots of their friends go to church and that means nothing to them. Be salt and light to them and your world will begin to change.
After you’ve taken your neighborhood, then you’re ready to start taking the nations for Jesus.
“The first said, ‘Master, I doubled your money.’ “He said, ‘Good servant! Great work! Because you’ve been trustworthy in this small job, I’m making you governor of ten towns.’”