Who is my Neighbor?

Last Saturday morning I received a request to help a neighbor.Well, not exactly a neighbor in my subdivision, but an acquaintance that I know from a home Bible study. First of all, the recent week of rain in New Mexico broke the worst two-year drought on record. Moreover, it caused caused local flooding. It was an extension of the rains which caused the terrifying floods along the Front Range in Colorado. The email request stated that sand needed to be cleaned out of Jerry’s back yard, and to bring a shovel.

Raging arroyo in Albuquerque during drought-breaking rains. Click to enlarge.

I rolled up with my caramel latte, gloves and shovel around 8 am on a Saturday, and was surprised to see a bulldozer there. Around the back of the house, I was astonished to see about four feet of sand covering Jerry’s entire backyard. It had even spilled over into the next back yard.

The house was set at the bottom of a low hill, directly opposite a small arroyo which by definition is normally dry. Huge rains brought down a bunch of eroded sand, and deposited it against the back fence. Therefore, a sinkhole formed and allowed sand to get under the fence and into the backyard. As a result, I estimated 250 tons of sand flowed into the yard (this is not a typo)!

A small front-end loader that Jerry had hired was hacking away at the sand in the back-yard, moving and stacking it by the side of the house, while the bulldozer attacked this pile of sand and moved it into the street. We latte peons had the job of shoveling sand away from the fences and from around the trees, where the front-end loader could not gain access.

In the gospels, a cocky lawyer tested Jesus by asking him how to gain eternal life. Jesus wisely hit the birdie back over the net and asked the lawyer if he read the Bible, and if so how he interpreted it. The Lawyer said “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus said “Correct”. But in the fashion of a prosecutor, the lawyer wanted to clarify “But who is my neighbor?”

It was a clever question, but Jesus was not fazed. He launched into the story of the Good Samaritan, where first a priest first, and later a Levite (both religious men) ignored the poor guy who had been robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Later, along comes a Samaritan who had compassion for the man, patched him up, put him on his donkey, and took him to an inn, where he paid the innkeeper to look after him. It must have been jarring for Jewish folks to listen to Jesus’ story, because Samaritans were despised by the Jews as an inferior people.

Flooding arroyo with coyote skull. Click to enlarge.

My thoughts on all this (please let me know in the Comment box if you agree or disagree):
• Jerry you are not my neighbor. According to this story of Jesus, a neighbor is a person that I do not know, and a person in grave danger, maybe even dying.
• To love my neighbor, I need to extend my compassion out to people of the world that I do not know.

• Perhaps I need to open my eyes and acknowledge the needs of the faraway, and the out-of-mind people in the world: people in Africa or India, or Haiti.
• I need to act on my compassion, and give time or money or both.
• After telling about the Samaritan’s unselfish act, Jesus explicitly told the lawyer to “Go and do likewise”. Maybe Jesus was saying to the prosecutor “Stop waffling and making arguments and excuses. Get off your duff and do something”.
• If I give money to my local church, and expect them to do the Good Samaritan thing for the third world, I should wonder what percentage of their budget goes there?

This is a hard commandment, but there it is in black and white. I wonder why our pastors in the USA do not preach more about this. Is it because it is too hard? How hard is it to give a few dollars each week to NGO’s that drill water wells where there are only polluted creeks, or to provide medical assistance to people who are seriously ill, or to build orphan homes for children kidnapped and traded for sex? It doesn’t take a big effort, but it does take a little effort. World Vision, Life Outreach International, and Doctors without Borders are just a few of the NGO’s doing a great job in these arenas.

The facts are that 80 % of the world’s blindness is preventable**. And 6,000 children across the world die each day of water-borne disease#. And 25,000 people die each day of preventable causes related to their poverty#. Two million children, mostly girls as young as the age of five, are part of the growing commercial sex trade around the world#. And 120,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war in the past two years (there are as well a few million refugees). These are staggering numbers that we cannot and should not ignore. We have a great opportunity to help these people to hope.

A penetrating expose on the state of the world’s poor, and our responsibility as Jesus’ followers. Click for the source AFTER reading the blog.

The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……

Then a certain Samaritan, as he traveled along came down to where he was, and when he saw him was moved with compassion, and went to him and dressed his wounds, pouring on them oil and wine. Then he set him on his own beast, 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 return” (Luke, chapter 10).

The benevolent person scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his deeds of justice and goodness and kindness and benevolence will go on and endure forever” (2 Corinthians, chapter 9)

** Jenny Amareneni, CEO of Solo Eyewear.

# The Hole in the Gospel, by Richard Stearns (Amazon).

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Nicida Maerefat
Nicida Maerefat
10 years ago

Ian: Jerry may not be your neighbor as defined in the Bible story but I still think that you did a great job by helping him on your Saturday. I think it is so unfortunate that money is spent in so many superfluous areas when there is so much need around the world. Churches are entities that spent so much money in their buildings which to me are unnecessary. Think about Joel Osteen’s church in Houston. He spent millions of dollars to retore that arena. He could have spent those millions of dollars in all those areas that you mentioned in your story. Thanks for pointing these areas of need out.

10 years ago

Nicida, you put your finger on an important issue: how the funds that are given to the church should be spent. The author of “The Hole in the Gospel” is quite critical of the USA churches in general because of their lack of giving to the poor and desperate overseas. I always wonder about the budget that is assigned to the poor and desperate overseas by our local churches, and how many Sundays are preached on that subject over the course of a year. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

10 years ago

That is a very moving passage from the bible. It has always affected me. If we all behaved as that good Samaritan, how would the world look? Recently in Australia we have sworn in a new prime minister, a Christian man. I was aghast to hear that his first statement in this powerful position was that he would stop the boats (refugees) coming to Australia. People who are so desperate that they would put their lives and their children’s lives at risk for the chance to live in our lucky country. If we would share as the good Samaritan as individuals and as nations what a world we would live in! From your niece Robyn who is proud of her uncle Ian’s generosity.

10 years ago
Reply to  Robyn

I think young people often have a wider and more compassionate view of humanity than some adults who are ardent churchgoers. You seem to belong to the former Robyn, and I welcome your viewpoint. Thanks for sharing.

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