Who is My Neighbor?

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley(1815 – 1881), known as Dean Stanley, was an English churchman and academic who wrote extensively on church history.  I came across this quote in my daily devotional, and decided to share it, because the parable of the Good Samaritan has been coming up over and over for my this year.  It has made me realize how often and how badly I fall down in this respect.

“How many are the sufferers who have fallen amongst misfortunes along the wayside of life!  ‘By chance” we come that way;  chance, accident, Providence, has thrown them in our way;  we see them from a distance, like the Priest, or we come upon them suddenly, like the Levite;  our business, our pleasure, is interrupted by the sight, is troubled by the delay;  what are our feelings, our actions towards them?  ‘Who is thy neighbor?’  It is the sufferer, wherever, whoever, whatsoever he be.  Wherever thou hearest the cry of distress, wherever thou seest any one brought across they path by the chances and changes of life (that is, by the Providence of God), whom it is in they power to help–he, stranger or enemy though he be,,–he is thy neighbor.”

For more posts on the parable of the good Samaritan see these posts:

Old Tale– New Take

kinda like grace by Ginger Sprouse — Book Review

Putting Others First

Old Tale– New Take

” Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.  ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’  He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’  Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’  Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’  Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise. ‘”  Luke 10:29-37

Recently we were studying this familiar parable in Sunday School.  A few weeks later, a guest pastor who preached at our church used the same text.  When this happens, I feel God is telling me to pay attention!  Pastor Del Palmer, retiring director of our denomination’s World Missions Department had some new insights to give–at least they were new to me.

First of all, since we realize that we are called to help our neighbor, and according to Jesus, everyone we meet is our neighbor,  Pastor Palmer asked, “how is that working out for you?”  I know that I fall down day after day — even with the best intentions in the world, I fail in my duty to minister to my neighbors.  How many people do I pass by, some purposefully, others without even recognizing their need?  If this is the way to achieve eternal life, I can’t do it, and neither can anyone else.

Secondly, think of the parable this way.  Each one of us is that man left for dead on the side of the road.  We are helpless to save ourselves.  We need a savior, and that would be Jesus.  He is the Good Samaritan, who tenderly rescues us, binds up our wounds and sees that we are protected and healed.

What do you think, readers?  Do these ideas give you a fresh understanding of an old story?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The True Blessing

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21

Most of us in the United States grow up looking forward to achieving “the American Dream.”  That means all manner of material blessings:  a nice car, a beautiful home, a stylish wardrobe, exciting vacations and more.  All those things are blessings, although we would do well to remember that they come from God, not as a result of our own merit.  The big problem is, they don’t last.  I love to go to thrift stores and it’s amazing to see all the things, some very nice things that end up there.  I imagine many of them are collections and treasured belongings that were once important, but are no longer;  the person who owned them has died, moved on to another interest or hobby, or possibly had to “downsize” and couldn’t afford to keep them.  So the question is, why invest our time in acquiring all these “things” in the first place?  Why not spend our time and money on treasure that is real and permanent?

I’m no different.  I spent a lot of my life acquiring things that I’ve now lost, things that wore out, became outdated, or that I had to sell or replace.  In retirement I look back and see that many of them weren’t as important as I imagined.  So what is?  Relationships, for one– our relationships with our parents, children, friends, and most of all God.  The Bible teaches:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Luke 10:27


“Love never ends.  1 Corinthians 13:8

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the rich young ruler is told that loving God and his fellow man is the way to eternal life with God.  That’s the true blessing and the only treasure that lasts.

Putting Others First


Years ago, in Economics 101, I was taught that self interest is the primary motivator of economic activity. Although we may have a number of reasons for working, going to school or deciding how to spend our money, at the core every decision we make is personal well being, or gain. You might say self interest is our default position.  Adam Smith put it this way in his book, The Wealth of Nations”:


“It is not from the benevolence (kindness) of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”


In other words, the seemingly helpful things we do for others are not really selfless. Deep down we do the things we do out of a desire to make life better for ourselves. You could say that self interest is just a nicer way of describing selfishness or sinful behavior.  It comes naturally because it’s built into our DNA – at least, that’s what Lutherans believe. We are sinful creatures from the moment of conception. It is indeed, our default position. That doesn’t mean we are just to accept it. Christianity calls us to consciously reverse our natural inclinations. We are called to live sacrificially, which means putting others first.  Compare Adam Smith’s quote to what St. Paul has to say:


“Do nothing out of selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal self interests, but also the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4


For a look at what this means in daily living, read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37.  Here’s what Martin Luther King Jr. said about this parable:


“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me? But … the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”


Can I change my default position? Can I put others first, even when it requires a sacrifice of my own needs and wants? Not on my own! “Wretched man (or woman) that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”(Romans 7:24) Only Jesus Christ!

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

1 Peter 2:21

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!