Looking at the world map strategically situated across from my quiet-time chair, my eyes focus on Japan, and I begin to pray for the people there again. The familiar tug in my heart reminds me to follow through with the decision to send money to help in natural ways, as well as in prayer. The people of Japan are my neighbors.
Waiting at a busy intersection, the needy person on the median catches my attention while making his way down the line of stopped cars. Fumbling in my purse, I find a fast food card I keep for just such situations. Trying hard to make eye contact as I reach out with the card, I tell him Jesus loves him. I just ran into another neighbor.
These neighbors, around the world and around my city, are familiar to me – probably to you, too. I’ve reached out to them with finances and in prayer. Recently, though, I’ve become aware of other neighbors who have been right under my nose all along. Their needs aren’t as obvious as those of the neighbors just described, but they are every bit as real. Am I their neighbor?
Luke 10:29-37 NIV
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of 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, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins 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 neighbor 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.”
As many times as I’ve read this story, never before did I notice that there is no reference to the beaten man’s financial condition. Certainly, he had no money with him because of the robbery; thus, he had no way to meet his immediate needs. The Samaritan asked no questions of him: about his financial health, reason for being on a road known for robbers, his beliefs, etc. He saw the immediate need of his neighbor and did His part to meet it. What other people am I to see as neighbors?
- My neighbor is my friend, the one needing surgery, but having no insurance. While this neighbor tries to save enough to cover it, the pain is intense. I pray for God’s provision for my neighbor’s need, but do I have a natural part to play in helping to meet that need, as well?
- My neighbor is the single mother down the street, struggling to be both father and mother to her children while working full-time. Money is not the immediate need here, but time is. Offering help with cleaning, cooking, or caring for the children could be just the gift she needs.
- My neighbor is the widower in my church. You know him. He’s the one we try to avoid when we see him coming – the one who goes on and on about his late wife or his time in the war. This neighbor’s immediate need is to have a friend – the kind who will let him talk, who will include him in their lives, who will welcome his approach as Jesus does.
My neighbors are much more varied, both in situation and needs, than what I’ve considered before. It’s not that I’m to neglect those I’ve reached out to in the past. It’s just that Jesus wants me to see even more with His eyes as I look at the people right around me. Then He wants me to give more of myself to help meet their needs, even as He gave Himself for me.
Jesus, please help me see my neighbors, the ones who have needs I haven’t considered before. Your heart beats with love and compassion for them, and Your desire is for them to experience Your love in the little and big things, as I follow Your Spirit’s lead. Thank You, Jesus, for stretching me in this area, so more will come to know you. All glory and honor belong to You!