Who exactly is my neighbor?

As part of the Year of the Bible, we hope you'll enjoy our second devotional, focused on Jesus' definition of exactly who our neighbors are and why we're called to love them.

Chris Palusky, CEO and President

March 01, 2020


Luke 10:29-37 (ESV) But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”


Last month, we looked at Mark 12 and our calling to love our neighbors. This month, we study a passage that helps us understand what the word neighbor truly means.

In Luke 10, we find Jesus in a conversation with a lawyer—a legal expert—about the very passage we studied together last month. In the passage, they are discussing the Old Testament’s command, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.”

The lawyer asks Jesus an important question: “Who is my neighbor?” With loving wisdom, Jesus responds with a powerful and convicting story.

While traveling down a dangerous stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho, a Jewish man is attacked and robbed. Three other travelers find the man beaten and left for dead on the side of the road.

Two of the travelers, a priest and a Levite, are members of the Jewish religious elite. Unfortunately, they don’t help the man and, in fact, go out of their way to avoid him. When a third man, a Samaritan, finds the wounded traveler, he is moved to act.

It is important to note that there was a great deal of tension and even hostility between Jews and Samaritans at the time, so the fact that the Samaritan stopped to help would have been a shocking turn in the story for listeners.

Notice how all three men “saw” the wounded traveler but only one “had compassion.” The Levite and the priest saw and avoided. The Samaritan saw a person in need of help and moved towards him.

It cost the Samaritan time and money and possibly exposed him to the danger of being robbed as well. But the value of the person in need was worth the sacrifice.

Through this text, we learn that the term neighbor has more to do with proximity and need than it does with familiarity and convenience. The lawyer was looking for a definition of who his neighbor was, but Jesus calls him to be a good neighbor to those around him who are in need. Jesus demonstrated that we love the Lord our God by loving our neighbor.

At Bethany, we desire to live out this teaching by being a good neighbor to those in our communities, across the U.S., and around the world. One way we do this is by caring for vulnerable children in the foster care system.

Last year, nearly 440,000 children encountered the foster care system in the U.S. These are children who find themselves in a world of chaos and loss, usually through no fault of their own. They desperately need someone to “see them” and “have compassion” on them.

That’s why we connect these children with loving families where they can experience the love and compassion of Christ in tangible ways.

If you are interested in joining with us in this important work, here are three ways you can get involved:

  1. Pray for all those involved in the foster care system (see the “Deeper Action” section below)
  2. Become a foster parent
  3. Support a foster family with your time, resources, and encouragement


Father, I thank you for loving me when I felt unlovable. Thank you for bringing light and healing to my life and the lives of those around me. I pray that I would be a faithful vessel of that love and compassion to those you bring across my path. I ask for your strength, wisdom, and grace to be a good neighbor wherever you lead me. Amen.

Deeper Action

If you would like to pray for those involved in the foster care system, here is a five-day plan you can follow:

Day 1—Area of focus: Children It all begins with the children. Sometimes, through no fault of their own, children find themselves in difficult and dangerous home environments. Pray for those children in your area. Pray that they would know the love and compassion of Christ as they enter into the foster care system.

Day 2—Area of focus: Families in need We all experience hard times. Unfortunately, sometimes these circumstances put kids at risk. Pray for the families that are struggling with the heavy burdens of life. Pray especially for those struggling financially, that they would find the relief they need to provide a safe, loving home for their kids. Also, lift up parents who are working hard to be reunited with their kids.

Day 3—Area of focus: Caseworkers On the front lines of the foster care system are hundreds of dedicated men and women, championing the needs and rights of children. It is a tough, and often thankless, job that caseworkers do with great love and compassion. Pray for the foster care caseworkers in your area, for their safety and well-being.

Day 4—Area of focus: Foster parents Today, spend time lifting up the families that selflessly care for children in need. As you can imagine, taking a child into your home can bring added stress and anxiety. Pray for those brave families fostering children. Pray they would experience peace and grace as they open their homes to those in need.

Day 5—Area of focus: Foster care family support teams Foster children and their host parents need dependable, gracious support in order to thrive. Pray for the extended families and friends of foster families. Pray that their hearts would be open to God’s guidance in how they can love and support both the children and the parents.

Your support changes lives