Fictitious Piety

What makes a good neighbor?

It might be easier to ask the world “What make a bad neighbor?”

When I glance at current affairs, consider natural disasters, sense palpable racial tension, and class divisions; deciphering between good neighbors and bad neighbors becomes very clear.

Jesus said it best in Luke‬ ‭10:36‬:
“Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”

I’m so thankful for the living Word because Jesus posed a question not even mentioning good or bad, near or far, countrymen or foreigner; He simply posed a question. Which man proved to be a neighbor? He spoke with an authority in this parable that most preaching overlooks, often preaching and teaching focus this parable around the religious spirit associated with the fictitious piety that led the Levite and Priest to the other side of the road. All valid and true interpretations.

However, Jesus negated the obvious and spoke to the commandment that lives in the hearts of the people who were blessed to have His Word. He knew that the man (and subsequently those listening) would be aware of the law:

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:18

As Jesus removed the argument from the tongue of the man in the parable, He also removed our arguments. We like to dispute who our neighbors might be, how far do the parameters bend in either direction, and we question what love actually dresses up as in our particular situation, station, region, or country. Jesus simply placed the onus squarely on the shoulders of those who claim rightness or righteousness to see our treatment neighbors in direct connection to obedience to God.


“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭6:5‭-‬9‬


“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:18

When Jesus was asked what was the foremost command, the “greatest”command, this was the response:

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:29‭-31

Loving God, being a neighbor, and knowing who that neighbor is, has a direct correlation to our obedience. The scribe in Mark 12 responded to Jesus’ answer to the Greatest Command very eloquently and profoundly. He noted that even burnt sacrifices weren’t more important than obedience. The way verse 34 in Mark 12 luminates the reductions of human understanding never ceases to fascinate; Jesus says to the scribe: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Not far, but not there! I can only imagine the ego of that scholar being so acutely shattered; and that sight causing a blanket of humility to fall on the crowd like a warm towel to a startled shower occupant. When the Holy Spirit moves humility and obedience are the only wise responses.

Now, I’ll ask again. What makes a good neighbor? Jesus described a neighbor as someone who cares, loves, assists, and reaches out to people. This sort of love transcends all of the things that we think separate us from one another. Seeing one another as neighbors as Christ describes, we’d see that the separation we are experiencing is from God not only from people, when we fail to love our neighbor.

His blood soaked hands are stretched out toward the nations and through His Word, and Spirit, He is asking His people to be neighbors. I keep asking myself, “Am I like the Good Samaritan, am I a neighbor?”

-Unapologetically Ariel

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