Luke 10:25–37 (NIV)
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “ ‘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, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Doctor Spook in the original Star Trek TV series made the popular greeting “Live long and prosper” to most of those he met as he journeyed through the universe.
I’m sure we’d all like to live long and prosper – to have a long and blessed life and to reap the rewards which go with a long and prosperous life.
How can you live long and prosper? Different people will give you different answers.
You could perhaps watch TV shows which talk about getting the most out of life or reading such books such as Jordan Peterson’s book “12 Rules For Life”.
You could ask different people. My Doctor continues to tell me I need to, “Lose some weight and get more exercise.”
A TV ad for Berocca might tell you it is “More than just energy” It’s “a healthier energy drink” to add zest to your living.
A cosmetic company might tell you, use this or that lotion or potion bring you better health and longevity.
All of these things might be conducive to living longer and enhancing your quality of life.
But how can an average person live much more than the average three score and ten years? If it comes to that, how can you live forever?
A lawyer, trained in the Old Testament Law of God, wanted to know how he could live forever – that is to “live long and prosper”. He asked Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus directed the lawyer to look at the Bible. "What is written in the Law? … How do you read it?" He said.
The lawyer remembered what he’d studied in Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And Leviticus 19:18b …you shall love your neighbour as yourself: ….
“That’s not so hard,” he thought. Especially if my neighbour is who I think he is.” The lawyer thought that his neighbour was his fellow Jew – the family next door, those who worked in the Temple with him. The person like himself.
Who do you think your neighbour is? Is he or she European, Maori, Pacifica, Indian, Iranian … in the home next door to you? Surely they earn a living, pay taxes and enjoy the things you enjoy in life?
We generally tend to have no major problems with our immediate neighbours. We’re generally happy to share with him or her, so long as they don’t ask too much of us.
It’s easy to love this kind of person because you only involve yourselves in their lives to the point where you feel comfortable and the cost is not high.
Jesus said you can treat your neighbour, whom you know has a need, in one of three ways. But first let’s choose a neighbour who needs help.
Let’s start with our unemployed and homeless neighbours living throughout New Zealand – maybe living in emergency housing. Who are they? They come in all ages, male and female, European, Maori, Pacifica, Indian, Iranian, …, ex-business men and women, school leavers, parents with dependant families.
Mostly our unemployed neighbours are hurting, perhaps with wounded pride, perhaps feeling worthless, left behind and perhaps feeling hopeless.
Now there are there are three ways to treat the unemployed and homeless:
- You could completely ignore them – walk on the other side of the road that is. We have our own lives to attend to. We’re all busy and we have important things to do so let’s pretend the unemployed and homeless don’t exist. Just like the priest who passed by on the other side in the parable Jesus told.
- You could see the plight of the unemployed and homeless and feel smug. I’m okay, I’ve got a job, a home, a farm, a business, a pension to support me and those I love. Just like the Levite who saw the man on the side of the road and went on his way.
- You could feel for the unemployed and homeless and be moved to ask: “What can I do to help?” You could get beside them and encourage them, restoring their hope, praying for them. Helping them to discover the resources available to them. You can be advocates to the Government on issues of unemployment and homelessness and actively seek out opportunities for new jobs and homes.
Ann Warren in her book, Living With Unemployment suggests that we can – and this applies to the homeless too:
“make sure that unemployed people are fully integrated into the life of the church; if possible giving them some definite responsibility and a feeling of genuine involvement. …Get along side the unemployed as genuine friends, letting them know how much you care without condescension … Encourage them to talk about all the worries they have been carrying single-handed – family tensions, lack of money, hopelessness, depression and so on. Introduce them to friends who might conceivably be able to help or give them ideas.”
Loving the unemployed and homeless or any other marginalised person can be difficult – especially if you yourselves are comfortable with your own home space, vocation, financial security and close supportive family community.
Jesus encourages you to love by loving yourselves first and then applying that same love to others. How would you like to be treated if you were in the same situation: unemployed…, homeless…?
Jesus found you lying wounded by evil passions and spiritual enemies. Many people are not helped by formal religion which either doesn’t want to get its hands dirty or is too busy doing the religious thing.
Jesus pitied us as the Samaritan pitied the beaten and robbed man. Jesus comes to each person, caring and saving from the dark forces of our human nature and the depraved world.
Jesus washed the wounds of sin in Baptism giving you the promise of eternal life. You are reminded of this each time you call on the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in whose name you worship, whom you confess in the creeds of the church and whose covenant is sealed with you personally as you receive the hospitality of the Lord’s Supper.
God’s gifts to you are given to enable you to give help to others who were like you, lying wounded in the world. Jesus picked you up and carried you to the “inn” of the church. He more than paid for your healing so that you may be a part of the healing of others.
Jesus leaves you in the capable hands of the church till He returns to take you into the fullness of eternal life.
Jesus is the neighbour for the whole of humanity, providing for your care and life in this world and the next. Who then is your neighbour? Whom can you love?
Jesus enabled you to “live long and prosper”. How can you help someone else to do the same?