WDJD: Neighbors



Concise Oxford English Dictionary

neighbour (US neighbor)

n. a person living next door to or very near to another.

† a person or place in relation to others next to it.

Merriam-Webmster's Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh Edition)

1neigh•bor \r\ n

[ME, fr. OE nr dweller — more at nigh, boor] bef. 12c

1 : one living or located near another

2 : fellow man

From My Mac's dictionary (Leopard 10.5.7)

neighbor |ˈnābər| ( Brit. neighbour)


a person living near or next door to the speaker or person referred to : our garden was the envy of the neighbors.

a person or place in relation to others near or next to it : I chatted with my neighbor on the flight to New York | matching our investment levels with those of our North American neighbors.

any person in need of one's help or kindness (after biblical use) : love thy neighbor as thyself.


You may talk of the tyranny of Nero and Tiberius; but the real tyranny is the tyranny of your next-door neighbor. —Walter Bagehot, in National Review

Love your neighbor, yet pull not down your hedge. —George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum

It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one's neighbor. —Eric Hoffer, in New York Times Magazine

Merriam-Webster, I. (1992). The Merriam-Webster dictionary of quotations. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster.

Jewish Definition (in Jesus' day)

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which, sadly, is not available). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

From the exilic experience, Israel recognized that divine blessing was conditional somewhat on justice and love exercised toward one another (Zec 8:14—17). The identity of the "neighbor" was debatable, however. Several factors suggest that "neighbor" was limited in this period to the fellow Israelite and the proselyte (gentile convert to Judaism). Evidence from rabbinic material excludes Samaritans and the Gentiles living in the land from being considered "neighbors" and thus worthy of love. Within the Jewish Essene community at Qumran, the "neighbor" to be respected and treated fairly was restricted to one's fellow community members. Finally, when Jesus recalls, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy' " (Mt 5:43—48), he is quoting only partially from the OT (Lv 19:18—"You shall love your neighbor …"). The last phrase ("… and hate your enemy") reflects the contemporary Jewish feeling toward outsiders; that is, God did not require love toward those considered "enemies" but only toward fellow countrymen.

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Baker encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.

Jesus' Definition

Luke 10:25:37 (ESV)

25 ​And behold, a p​lawyer stood up to q​put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" 27 And he answered, "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." 28 And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30 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. 31 Now by chance a ​priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise ​a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a ​Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 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. 35 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.' 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 37 He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."

  • Based on the Jewish understanding of "neighbor" in Jesus' day, of the three who passed the victim, who were his neighbors? (The priest and the Levite.)
  • Who was actually his neighbor? (The Samaritan.)
  • Why is that so incredible? (John 4:9 — "The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (​For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)")
  • Did you noticed how the question of who is our neighbor has been turned back on us? (Look back at verse 37.) Our neighbors are those who we are neighborly too…and we are to be neighbors to everyone, including those who we may have reason to hate.

What did Jesus do?

It is easy for Jesus to say, "You go, and do likewise," but did he?

This time I read through Luke to see just who Jesus showed "mercy" to — who Jesus treated as a neighbor.

It would take too long to go through every example recorded in Luke, but some prime ones…

Well, first a "fun" one. Who was Jesus' first neighbor? (Take a look at Luke 1:41.)

Now onto some telling examples of who Jesus treated as neighbors:

  • When Jesus stayed at the temple as a 12-year old boy, Luke 2:44 says Mary and Joseph "began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances" — He was a neighbor to friends and relatives (otherwise why would they check for him there)?
  • Going on to verse 46, it says Jesus was "sitting among the teachers and asking them questions" — He was a neighbor to teachers.
  • Luke speaks of Jesus teaching in synagogues (Luke 4:15) — He was a neighbor to students.
  • Luke records many cases of Jesus casting out demons (e.g. the man with an "unclean demon" in Capernaum in Luke 4:31-37) — He was a neighbor to the demon possessed.
  • Luke also documents myriad cases of Jesus healing people (e.g. Simon's mother with a high fever in Luke 4:38-39) — He was a neighbor to the sick.
  • If you think my "myriad cases" is an exaggeration, let's look at Luke 4:40-41: "40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 ​And demons also came out of many, l​crying, "You are ​the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and ​would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ." — I haven't even gotten past chapter 4 in Luke!
  • One last case of healing the ill. Perhaps Jesus healed people because He felt he had to or to get the "crowds" that Luke so often speaks of to leave him alone. Turning to Luke 5:12-13: "12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he ​fell on his face and begged him, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." 13 And Jesus​ stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him." — Jesus was willing! (As any good neighbor would be.)
  • Continuing in chapter 5 (5:27-32): "27 After this he went out and saw ​a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, "Follow me." 28 And ​leaving everything, he rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and ​their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" 31 And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 i​I have not come to call the righteous but sinners ​to repentance."" — He was a neighbor to tax collectors and sinners.
  • In Luke 7, Jesus heals a Centurion's servant — He was a neighbor to non-Israelites. (Now, technically the Centurion fit the Jewish definition of neighbor, since he seemed a proselyte. However, we only need to look to His kind treatment of the Samaritan woman in John 4 for proof that not only was He a neighbor to non-Israelites, He was a neighbor to those Jews hated — and to outcasts.)
  • When John the Baptist's faith faltered a bit, Jesus said, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: y​the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, z​lepers​5 are cleansed, and a​the deaf hear, b​the dead are raised up, c​the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is d​not offended by me" (Luke 7:22) — Jesus was a neighbor to the blind, the lame, lepers, the deaf, those who have died, and the poor.
  • At this point we could think Jesus only cared about the downtrodden…but multiple times Luke records Him eating with Pharisees…including once "at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees" (Luke 14:1) — He was a neighbor to the rich, the powerful, and the popular.

I could go on but in Luke alone you can see that Jesus was a neighbor to…

  • The healthy and the sick
  • Students and teachers
  • The rich and the poor
  • Children and adults
  • Those who were popular and those who were outcasts
  • Those who were law abiding and criminals
  • Friends and enemies

Do you see where this is going?

Jesus was a neighbor to everyone!

How good a neighbor will you be in heaven?

[ Tell Ronald Reagan joke as best as you can remember it ]

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."

—Robert Frost, "Mending Wall"

Merriam-Webster, I. (1992). The Merriam-Webster dictionary of quotations. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster.

Are you someone that, in heaven, people will want "good fences" with? Are you someone who warrants a "good fence" hear on earth? If so, what is going to change between now and heaven?

But more importantly…

When you think about God, is He someone you really want to have as a neighbor for all eternity? Now…not because you want to live forever…or avoid what you consider the opposite of heaven…

Do your really want to be next to your understanding of what God is like for all eternity? Would you kind of like a fence, just in case?

If so…do you really trust Him?


Whether we look at Jesus' words…or at Jesus' actions…it becomes clear that everyone is your and my neighbor.

Now, let's all "Go, and do likewise"…

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Alan is an ordinary guy, living in a small, high plains Colorado town...and humbled to be a minister of God...

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