July 10, 2016
Luke 10:25-37. . . 25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Our Gospel lesson this morning is one widely known by Christians. It is the story known as the Good Samaritan. But rather than focus on the story itself, I would like to focus on the lawyer’s thoughts and words. In particular, this part of the text, “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” The lawyer has just asked what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. When asked what was written in the Law, he responds with the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving his neighbor.
But for this man, such a command is too vague for him. He wants to know specifics. He wants to know what path he must take; down to the most minute detail. Why? For what reason must he ask, “And who is my Neighbor?” Does he believe there is one person in particular that he must help? Is there only one person or group that qualifies as recipients of his attention in order for him to attain eternal life? Why is he so concerned about who exactly is his neighbor?
I’m sure there are many theories, and who can know exactly without being able to question the man himself? But I will use Pastoral discretion here a little and give you my take on the man’s thoughts. He wants to know exactly who the neighbor is he is supposed to love because he’s looking for the bare minimum. “Give me instructions Lord of what I must do so I can hurry up, get it done, and get on with my life to do with it what I please.” This lawyer is not looking for the true answer about eternal life. He just wants to check off the box that must be checked in order to fulfill requirements. He wants to just be given a task that he can quickly complete so he can forget about it and move on to his next task.
And as bad as this seems, how often do we find ourselves guilty of the same thing? Do we have those checkmarks that we just have to get taken care of? Have you ever thought after Church on Sunday, “Whew glad that’s over. Got my weekly Church in. Don’t have to worry about it again until next Sunday.” Or the offering plate comes around and we look in our wallets to see what we can spare today. “Hey, it’s something. And everyone saw me give something. That’s all that really matters.”
How often when we leave this building on Sunday mornings do we forget to be Christians until the next time we’re in them? “Our due diligence has been paid because we showed up for service. Now it’s time to move on with the rest of our lives.” Is that the way it should be? Or should our lives be focused in Christ?
This is why this parable is so useful here. Jesus could have simply told the lawyer that everyone was his neighbor and that he had to love all of God’s children and not just a select few. But instead, he decides to tell him and the others sitting around a parable; a teaching. He tells of a traveler who has been waylaid upon the road by some robbers. Both a priest and a Levite pass the man without offering assistance before a Samaritan stops and takes care of the traveler.
The priest and the Levite should have been like this lawyer. They should have stopped and helped the traveler in order to do their good deed that gets them eternal life. They should have offered the man aid in order to get him back on his feet so he can continue his travels. They could give themselves a big, hearty pat on the back, and then they could tell others of how good they were because they had helped him. They could have just checked off the box and been on their way after having done what was required of them.
But this is not how the story is to go. A third passerby is the one that stops to render aid. This Samaritan, this outsider, is the one who does what the priest and Levite should have done. And he doesn’t stop there. He cares for the traveler to the degree that he spends his own wealth to insure the health of the man. This Samaritan who had no relation to the traveler shows the compassion and love of a family member.
Both the priest and the Levite were more closely related to the traveler than the Samaritan. They were less of strangers to him than any outsider could be because they were of the same people. They were all Jews. If they had asked Jesus who their neighbor was, he could have easily answered with this traveler. But it is the man from far away who could never be considered a neighbor that shows the true qualities of one.
He was not trying to do his good deed for the day. He was not trying to check off a box that needed to be checked. He did it because the traveler needed help. It wasn’t so he could go brag to his buddies about what he had done. There would be no bragging. There would only be the concern and care for someone in need of help.
As we go through our lives, we need not be concerned about doing the bare minimum. We need not try to just get the task set before us accomplished so we can live however we want afterwards. The task HAS already been accomplished. We have already been granted eternal life. Whatever else we do, we do to the glory of God. We don’t glorify him just one hour each week. We glorify him constantly. We are his always, not just every so often. Let us remember that as we go throughout our days. Let us remember to walk in his ways even outside of these walls. Don’t think, “What must I do?” Instead, think about what we are able to do. Think about the opportunities we are given each and every day to show God’s love as it has been shown to us. Amen.