Looking for a loophole, he asked, "And just how would you define 'neighbour'?" Jesus answered by telling a story. Luke 10:29,30.
In true 'Jesus' fashion, He answered an important question with a story. The religion scholar wanted to know the identity of his neighbour, probably thinking in terms of persons within his own race. Jesus' story was intended to broaden his horizon to 'need', not race or culture. In the story, the compassionless attitude of the religious elite contrasted with the compassion of the Samaritan who recognised need and did not react to the racial prejudice which he knew to be in the heart of the Jew.
Jesus was turning the man's question on its head. He was making the point that it does not matter who my 'neighbour' is. What is more important is who I am ‘neighbour’ to. It is my responsibility to be a neighbour to anyone I meet who needs the help I can give.
Another issue, which probably made the questioner squirm, was the exposure of the typical attitude of the religious experts. Their 'professional' standing in the community produced such arrogance in their hearts that they refused to dirty their hands or their 'holiness' by stooping to help a person in need. This is so contrary to the heart of the Father. Once again Jesus was showing up their complete misunderstanding of the God they thought they were worshipping.
This is an attitude God hates because it elevates one person above another. No-one is more special in God's eyes than another and to take up that attitude is idolatry because it challenges God for the central place in the heart.
Generosity was another issue with the religious elite. They were essentially greedy - controlled by the 'yetzer harah', the eye of darkness or the greedy (evil) eye. The Samaritan's generosity must have hit home to the listeners, especially those who belonged to the hyper-religious group.
Jesus was sickened by the selectiveness of the religious people. Because they misunderstood the Law of God which conveyed the attitude of the heart of God, they thought that being arrogantly exclusive was what God wanted. They misunderstood the reason for their need to separate themselves from the pagans – because they were so prone to being influenced by the evil ways of those who worshipped idols.
They forgot that their role in the world was to model a God who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and full of love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6). True religion is to become involved, not isolated, from the suffering of others, regardless of whether they deserve it or not.
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