The Bible shows that there are two great commandments. The first commandment is to love God with all our being. The second commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. So how do we show that we love our neighbors?
A Christian from West Virginia relates his story:
“I’ve always loved to work on cars. Whenever I was out driving and saw someone alongside the road with car problems, I stopped to help. It was rewarding to fix their car, but more rewarding to help them.
“One time in the dead of winter, I found this stranded couple trying to stay warm in their freezing car. No one had stopped to help. Another time, a family of six was trying to make it to their relatives for some food to eat. They had put a couple of dollars of gas in their old car, hoping it would be enough. It wasn’t.
“I was always thankful to God that I could help. But just like them, one day my car broke down. I had a flat tire and had no spare. I was in the middle of nowhere. But then, something happened I will never forget!
“I got out and leaned against my car, wondering what I was going to do. Seemingly out of nowhere, two men in an old wrecker suddenly pulled along beside me.
“‘You need a tire, don’t you?’ asked one of them. Before I could even answer, they got out of the wrecker, grabbed a tire from the back, and changed my tire as I stood there speechless! When they finished, I asked, ‘How much do I owe you?’ The man simply replied, ‘Nothing. We all need a hand every now and then.’ They promptly turned around and drove away.
“I know that God sent these ‘Good Samaritans’ to help me. God says that when we look out for others, He will look out for us. He proved it to me that day.”
What Does the Bible Say About Looking Out for the Needs of Others?
All of us, at one time or another, have been in need of someone else’s help. And when we were in that situation, we wanted help. Perhaps we were too proud to ask for it, but we knew we needed help. And when someone did come and help, we were grateful.
Regardless of our status in life, we are to look out for the needs of others. The famous parable of the Good Samaritan is a lesson about being a good neighbor. So let’s look at that parable and other relevant scriptures that tell us how to be a good neighbor.
How much importance does God place on being a good neighbor?
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Loving your neighbor as yourself is the second great commandment. Christ says we are to treat others the way we want to be treated. When dealing with people, we need to stop and think how we would want to be treated, then treat them that way. The last six of the Ten Commandments are summarized in this second great commandment.
What should motivate us to be a good neighbor?
1 John 3:17
But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.
A person must have compassion if he or she wants to be able to genuinely help others. Human beings have a natural compassion, but too often we learn to shut our eyes and hearts to the needs around us. We should seek to reverse that trend, and we should ask God to give us His love and the deeper compassion that comes through His Holy Spirit.
Who specifically is our neighbor?
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.
“He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.
“Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
“And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Anyone and everyone is our neighbor. Friends, strangers and enemies alike—we are to treat them all the way we want to be treated.
What lessons can we learn from the parable of the “Good Samaritan”?
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'”
And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
“Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
“Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.
“So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
“On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’
“So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
The Samaritan saw someone in need and had compassion. He could have easily continued on his way like the other two people did, but he stopped when he saw the man in need.
Next, the Samaritan temporarily put his needs on hold so he could assist this man who needed help now. The Samaritan sacrificed his time and money to help this stranger.
Finally, the Samaritan quietly departed after he helped, and made no scene about the good deed that he had done (Matthew 6:1-4).
What state of mind is needed to be a good neighbor?
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Humility is also needed to be a good neighbor. We can’t be selfish. We need to think about others and their needs. If our minds are focused on others and not just ourselves, we will be able to help others when we come across something they need.
What else is required of us to be a good neighbor?
Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” when you have it with you.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
“Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
1 John 3:18
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
In order to be a good neighbor, we must take action. We must not only see the needs of others, we must act on those needs.
Perhaps the need is simply opening a door for someone whose hands are full. Maybe the need is offering an encouraging word to someone who is depressed. Perhaps a fatherless son would like to go fishing. Maybe some widow needs some company. Or maybe someone needs his car pulled out of a ditch. Whatever the need, we must show by our actions that we care about our neighbor. And in today’s self-absorbed world, others will definitely take notice—and be grateful—when we take time to help and encourage them.
The Bible only lists a few of the hundreds upon hundreds of good works Jesus Christ did for others, and we are to follow His example (John 21:25; 1 John 2:6).
Is there anything that a good neighbor shouldn’t do?
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Do not devise evil against your neighbor, for he dwells by you for safety’s sake.
God doesn’t want us to think evil about our fellow man. We’re not to try to get even, hold grudges or try to cause bad things to happen to anyone. God doesn’t even want us to be glad when something bad happens to our enemy (Proverbs 24:17). Remember, we would not want to be treated that way!
What does God say will happen to those who help others in this life?
Proverbs 19:17, English Standard Version
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
God takes notice of those who help others. He says that when we give to others, we will be “repaid,” though that is not our motivation for serving. Blessings won’t always come immediately, but in time God will make sure good things will happen to us. The more sincere and wholehearted we are about helping others, the more blessings will follow us (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
What does God say will ultimately happen to those who love their neighbors as themselves?
Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.
“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
“All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
“And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
“‘When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?
“‘Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'”
When we help others in need, God says our ultimate reward will be becoming His children in the Kingdom of God. Although we may think of the good deeds we do as merely helping our fellow man and woman, God sees it has helping Him.