A Neighbor Unto Me

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Some have hastily concluded in reading the parable of the certain Samaritan that the Lord answered the question, "Who is my neighbor?" by pointing out that wherever there is need we should do our duty toward our neighbor. But it should be observed that the man who fell among thieves is not mentioned as a neighbor toward whom the other acts, but the Samaritan was neighbor unto him. This is another principle altogether to what was in the lawyer's mind when he said, "Who is my neighbor?" and stands out in contrast with it, because the lawyer merely wished to justify himself; that is, to have clearly defined those who had any claim upon him, that he might have no outstanding debts. We know for ourselves the satisfaction in being able to say, I owe nothing. Thus what prompted that question was really love to himself, and not love to his neighbor. Where love is in exercise, it asks not, Who? but has its own delight in acting apart from the question of who deserves it. And this is the principle of grace which is here shown out in contrast to the principle of law, which was the fulfilling of duty toward one's neighbor. The one is meeting claim; the other is meeting need apart from the question of claim altogether.
And this is why the term "Samaritan" is employed, to present one on whom there was no claim; "for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans"; so that the Samaritan acts from himself, and not from any claim the other had on him. And this brings out what the gospel of the grace of God is. It is not the fulfilling of claim or promise, but the acting out of God's love to the lost. There were no promises to Adam, and a sinner has no claims upon God. Forgetfulness of this often keeps souls from having the blessing of the gospel; they will not have it for nothing. If they can establish some claim, whether by their prayers or religious observances, they would like it better. Why? Because this would be to give them some importance; but to be of no importance at all is humbling to the pride of man. It was this that kept the Syrophenician woman from the blessing at first. She pleaded the promises in saying, "Thou
Son of David," and was thus putting in a claim on Him, when she had none, as a woman of Canaan. She was taking the children's (Jew's) place when she was only a dog; and so the Lord says, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs." Then she says, "Truth, Lord." She relinquishes all claim upon Him, and takes the place of deserving nothing; but there she gets everything. "Yet," she says, "the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." The "yet" shows she had resources, though not now in the promises or in herself in anywise, but in Him and the love that brought Him down to meet the need of the lost. This was faith in Him, which He at once owns; for although He must deny her false claim, "He cannot deny Himself."
The Lord would willingly have been a neighbor unto the lawyer, and uses the law to produce a knowledge of his need; for the law is not a way of getting righteousness, as the lawyer was using it, but "by" it "is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:2020Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)); and this is how God uses the law. The Lord still further says, "Go thou and do likewise," that the man might know his deceitful heart, that such a principle of acting (that is, in mercy) was foreign to his nature altogether, and that thus he might learn his need. We find the Lord always deals with souls according to their state; to a soul with a felt need He would never say, "Go and do thou likewise"; or, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate," as He says to another, who was merely inquisitive, and not needy.
The point of the teaching of this portion may be summed up in these words: It is the principle of grace in dealing as a neighbor, instead of the claim of God toward a neighbor.