Willing to justify himself - Wishing to make it appear that he was a righteous man, and that consequently he was in the straight road to the kingdom of God, said, Who is my neighbor? supposing our Lord would have at once answered, "Every Jew is to be considered as such, and the Jews only." Now as he imagined he had never been deficient in his conduct to any person of his own nation, he thought he had amply fulfilled the law. This is the sense in which the Jews understood the word neighbor, as may be seen from Leviticus 19:15-18. But our Lord shows here, that the acts of kindness which a man is bound to perform to his neighbor when in distress, he should perform to any person, of whatever nation, religion, or kindred, whom he finds in necessity. As the word πλησιον signifies one who is near, Anglo Saxon, he that is next, this very circumstance makes any person our neighbor whom we know; and, if in distress, an object of our most compassionate regards. If a man came from the most distant part of the earth, the moment he is near you he has a claim upon your mercy and kindness, as you would have on his, were your dwelling-place transferred to his native country. It is evident that our Lord uses the word πλησιον (very properly translated neighbor, from nae or naer, near, and buer, to dwell) in its plain, literal sense. Any person whom you know, who dwells hard by, or who passes near you, is your neighbor while within your reach.
To justify himself - Desirous to appear blameless, or to vindicate himself, and show that he had kept the law. Jesus wished to lead him to a proper view of his own sinfulness, and his real departure from the law. The man was desirous of showing that he had kept the law; or perhaps he was desirous of justifying himself for asking the question; of showing that it could not be so easily settled; that a mere reference to the “words” of the law did not determine it. It was still a question what was meant by “neighbor.” The Pharisees held that the “Jews” only were to be regarded as such, and that the obligation did not extend at all to the Gentiles. The lawyer was probably ready to affirm that he had discharged faithfully his duty to his countrymen, and had thus kept the law, and could justify himself. Every sinner is desirous of “justifying himself.” He seeks to do it by his own works. For this purpose he perverts the meaning of the law, destroys its spirituality, and brings “down” the law to “his” standard, rather than attempt to frame his life by “its” requirements.
If there were not another text in the Bible, this statement carries sufficient light and knowledge and assurance for every soul. The lawyer had answered his own question, but willing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Verse 29). Then by the parable of the Good Samaritan, Christ showed who is our neighbor, and gives us an example of the love we should manifest toward those suffering and in need. The priest and Levite, whose duty it was to minister to the needs of the stranger, passed by on the other side. UL 215.3Read in context »
In the invitation to the gospel supper the Lord Jesus has specified the work to be done—the work that the churches in every locality, north, south, east, and west, should do. 6T 294.1
The churches need to have their eyes anointed with the heavenly eyesalve, that they may see the many opportunities all about them to minister for God. Repeatedly God has called upon His people to go out into the highways and hedges, and compel men to come in, that His house may be full; yet even within the shadow of our own doors are families in which we have not shown sufficient interest to lead them to think that we cared for their souls. It is this work lying nearest us that the Lord now calls upon the church to undertake. We are not to stand, saying: “Who is my neighbor?” We are to remember that our neighbor is the one who most needs our sympathy and help. Our neighbor is every soul who is wounded and bruised by the adversary. Our neighbor is everyone who is the property of God. In Christ the distinctions made by the Jews as to who was their neighbor are swept away. There are no territorial lines, no artificial distinctions, no caste, no aristocracy. 6T 294.2Read in context »
“Who is my neighbour?” ... He is the very one who needs help the most. Thy brother, sick in spirit, needs you as you needed him. He needs the experience of one who has been as weak as himself, who can sympathize with and help him. The very knowledge of his own weakness helps that one to help another in his weakness. OHC 184.4Read in context »