"Like a Good Neighbor" Matthew 22:34-40
Like a Good Neighbor”
Core Competency: Compassion
I believe God calls all Christians to show compassion to those in need. Psalm 82:3-4 3 Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. 4 Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.
Text: Matthew 22:34-40
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
The Message Of This Passage
From the Ligonier Ministries: After the Sadducees fail to confound Jesus, the Pharisees gather together to try and trap Him again, sending one of their own to test Jesus on their behalf. A lawyer, this man’s training in the Mosaic law goes beyond even that of most Pharisees, legal experts in their own right. The question he asks our Savior is likely an attempt to get Jesus to deny one or more laws in the Torah and find proof of heresy.
Rabbis hotly debated the lawyer’s question during the lifetime of Jesus. One count lists 613 individual stipulations in the Torah, and Jewish teachers wanted a unifying principle to aid the Law’s application. Christ’s answer to His examiner (vv. 36–39) is not wholly original; others combined the concepts of loving God and neighbor as the greatest duty in the Law. Yet Jesus is the first to combine the two specific texts in today’s passage to prove the point. He quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5, which is part of the Shema that pious Jews still recite daily (Deut. 6:4–9). The injunction to love one’s neighbor is found in Leviticus 19:18.
Despite attempts to interpret passages like Matthew 5:17 otherwise, today’s passage indicates that Jesus does not abrogate the Law when He fulfills it. He would not single out passages from the Law as God’s greatest commandments if He wanted to eliminate all principles found in the Mosaic code. Also, Jesus’ answer reveals that love is primarily an action, not a feeling. The commandment to love is an order to do something; thus, we are to love others, serving them even if we do not feel like it. Furthermore, if love for God and neighbor are the commandments upon which the Law and Prophets hang, we cannot somehow separate love from these stipulations and define love in a way that ignores God’s law. Any act the Bible forbids is not love; rather, the Law shows us how to express true love. Paul can say, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10) and also expect Christians to live out the basic ethical code of the Old Testament (v. 9). Above all, John Calvin comments, Jesus says that “love is the first and great thing that God demands from us, and therefore the first and great thing that we should devote to him.”
Questions for Reflection:
Whether it’s a friend, a family member, or even yourself, who do you know that believes there is a God, but still has yet to have a personal relationship with Jesus?
Knowing that God loves each of us unconditionally, and that His love saved us, how can this fact help motivate you to love others?
Do you put conditions on love? Why, or why not?
How can we get over the self-imposed rules we generate by putting conditions on love?
Think of an experience in which you saw “loving your neighbor as yourself” work out – either in your life – or another’s life.
Who do you know who needs a little selfless love?
In what sense is this commandment bad news?
In what sense is this commandment good news?
The absolute love Jesus describes is beyond our abilities. So what do we need to do to love like this? See Galatians 5:14-16,22-23.
We grow in love by cooperating with God’s Spirit who lives within us; and we cooperate by practicing the spiritual disciplines, habits such as reading the Word, giving, and serving. What Spiritual Discipline will you work on this week so that God’s Spirit can grow your love?