The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
As used in this context, your neighbor means “someone near.” God has positioned near us all kinds of people with all kinds of needs. By showing love and generosity to such people, we are fulfilling one of the greatest commandments.
The children of Israel were told to treat a runaway slave as a neighbor and to give him refuge (Deuteronomy 23:15). They were also told not to barge into a neighbor’s house to take an article for collateral. They were to let the person bring it out to them, and if the neighbor was poor and had only a cloak for collateral, they could not keep it overnight. In addition, they were told to leave intentional harvests of wheat, olives, and grapes for the poor (Deuteronomy 24:10-13,19-21).
The generosity of the Good Samaritan to his “neighbor,” someone who was near, distinguished his true religion from the selfish religion of the Levite and priest (Luke 10:25-35). Likewise, Jesus’ commandment to us is “Now go and do the same” (v. 37).
We complicate our religion when we think of it as distant and difficult. In fact, it is near—as near as a neighbor in need. If we focus our love and generosity on neighbors in need, God will meet our own needs in return.