“How to be a Neighbor” A Devotion on Luke 10: 29

“But wanting to justify himself, the lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
—Luke 10:29

The lawyer in The Parable of the Good Samaritan tried to trick Jesus so he asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered by the Book: love God and love your neighbor. But the lawyer sought a loophole: “And who is my neighbor?” What he really wanted to know was “who is not my neighbor?”

Jesus did what he so often did; he told a story. A man was robbed and beaten and left for dead on the Jericho Road, when first a priest and later a Levite came upon him and “passed by on the other side.” The lawyer would have recognized these men as men of authority, men like him.

Then a traveling Samaritan came upon the man and was “moved to pity.” He bandaged the man’s wounds and, placing him on his own animal, took him to an inn and took care of him.

The lawyer, listening to Jesus’s story, would have been well aware that the Samaritan was a despised heretic, no neighbor of his.

Jesus asked him, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Samaritan was “moved to pity,” showed mercy, and did what needed to be done. That is what makes him “good” and a true neighbor.

Jesus’s story changed the focus. To ask “who is my neighbor?” is to seek the limits of my responsibility to my neighbors. A better question is “Can I be a neighbor to those who need me?”

Prayer: Move us to help those who need us, O God, and to show mercy to them as you have shown mercy to us.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for November 3, 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Picture: “The Good Samaritan” by Rembrandt.)

“For Free!” A Devotion on Ephesians 2: 8, 9

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” —Ephesians 2: 8, 9

Do we take for granted those things in life that come to us for free? Since our society tends to commercialize everything, it becomes easy to value only that which we paid for or worked for. Continue reading

“The Elusive Presence” A Devotion on James 4:8

“Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.”—James 4:8

James makes knowing God sound easy, but I’ve never found it so. When I was a young man, and had outgrown my Sunday school faith, I hungered to know God, not just as an idea, but as a living relationship. Continue reading

“Signs of God’s Reign” A Devotion on Matthew 15: 30,31.

“Great crowds came to Jesus, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.” —Matthew 15:30,31.

When the early church heard about the healings that Jesus had done they understood them as signs that the long awaited reign of God had begun in him. Continue reading

“No Doubts? I Doubt it!” A Devotion on James 1: 5-8

“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” —James 1:5-8 Continue reading

“God’s Righteousness and Ours” A Devotion on Psalm 111:2-3

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is God’s work, and God’s righteousness endures forever.”—Psalm 111:2-3

The concept of “righteousness” was important to Ancient Israel’s self-understanding of their covenant with God. The Hebrew word usually translated as righteousness could also mean integrity, justice, prosperity or wholeness. Righteousness was both an attribute belonging to God, and the order of things that God put into place for the well being of Israel. Continue reading

“Everyday Virtue” A Devotion on Hebrews 13:18

“Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.” —Hebrews 13:18

People frequently conflate religion with morality, as if they were the same thing. When we are children we imagine that if we are good, God will reward us. But the Christian faith insists that God loves us as we are. As Paul put it: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Continue reading