Following up on two good questions asked in a discussion with Jesus (see Luke 10:25-26), we get to the answer from “an expert in the law” to Jesus’ question:
He answered, “ ‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:27-29 NIV
As we might expect, when an expert in the law of Moses (which would include the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus) is asked a question, he answers with responses from that law. And, Jesus confirms that he is correct. (I don’t know about you, but being cited in the Bible as having given the correct answer to Jesus sounds like a pretty good thing!) The answer to inheriting eternal life is, as a modern Christian song says, “Love God [and] Love People”.
However…this expert in the law doesn’t seem willing to stop there. I’m not exactly sure how he wanted to “justify himself”, but I could imagine the people around him saying, “Hey, why are you bothering the rabbi (meaning Jesus)? You already knew the answer, so why ask Him? Of course He already knows that answer.” In fact, it seems like there was pretty good agreement in that day that these two commandments were important. (See also Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34.)
A commentator [Black, p.215] suggests that the expert in the law here was proud, and wanted to prove that he was keeping the law, apparently by having Jesus confirm who this guy’s neighbor was. After all, it’s one thing to love others, but how can we tell if we are loving the right people if we don’t know exactly who our neighbor is?
Regardless of his reasons, the expert in the law asks a follow-up question. Again, we may not know his motivations, but his next question (one that maybe didn’t have as clear-cut of an answer as the previous one) yielded a great illustration from Jesus for us, which we still tell many times today.
So, how about us? Do we, like this guy trading questions with Jesus, ask Jesus questions that we know the answer to? For instance, “Does praying really matter?”, “Should I be generous when other people aren’t?”, or “Do I need to look out for hurting and marginalized people?”
Or, do we keep asking Jesus more questions, once He confirms (perhaps through His Word in the Bible) an answer that we already know? For instance, “Is there any situation where I don’t have to love my neighbor?”, “Do God’s expectations for righteous behavior still apply to me today?”, or “Can’t there be a loophole just for me?”.
Questions are good, but sometimes we need to just say, “thank you for the answer”, and take action based on God’s instructions. Sometimes questions are good, but other times they are merely a smokescreen for our desire to not accept the answers, or they become a fishing expedition for a way out. May we continue to ask God good questions that are on our heart, but let’s also do a little introspection to ensure that we’re only asking questions that we really have, and not trying to lead God down our own path (rather than letting Him lead us through His story).
Remember, those who have turned their lives over to Jesus are justified through His sacrifice for us. There’s no need to further try to justify ourselves: neither to God nor to people.
If you’re following along with these articles regularly, I encourage you to read Luke 10:25-37, so that we can start to review Jesus’ answer in the next article.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for May 1, 2022
- The Lookout, May 1, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.