Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 27: "Who is My Neighbour?"
Based on Luke 10:25-37
Among the Jews the question, "Who is my neighbour?"
caused endless dispute. They had no doubt as to the
heathen and the Samaritans. These were strangers and
enemies. But where should the distinction be made among
the people of their own nation and among the different
classes of society? Whom should the priest, the rabbi, the
elder, regard as neighbor? They spent their lives in a
round of ceremonies to make themselves pure. Contact
with the ignorant and careless multitude, they taught,
would cause defilement that would require wearisome effort
to remove. Were they to regard the "unclean" as
|The Good Samaritan.—Davis Collection.|
This question Christ answered in the parable of the good
Samaritan. He showed that our neighbor does not mean
merely one of the church or faith to which we belong. It
has no reference to race, color, or class distinction. Our
neighbor is every person who needs our help. Our neighbor
is every soul who is wounded and bruised by the adversary.
Our neighbor is every one who is the property of God. [p. 377]
The parable of the good Samaritan was called forth by
a question put to Christ by a doctor of the law. As the
Saviour was teaching, "a certain lawyer stood up, and
tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit
eternal life?" The Pharisees had suggested this question
to the lawyer in the hope that they might entrap Christ in
His words, and they listened eagerly for His answer. But
the Saviour entered into no controversy. He required the
answer from the questioner himself. "What is written in
the law?" He asked, "How readest thou?" The Jews still
accused Jesus of lightly regarding the law given from Sinai,
but He turned the question of salvation upon the keeping of
The lawyer said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as
thyself." "Thou hast answered right," Christ said; this do,
and thou shalt live."
The lawyer was not satisfied with the position and works
of the Pharisees. He had been studying the scriptures with
a desire to learn their real meaning. He had a vital interest
in the matter, and he asked in sincerity, "What shall I do?"
In his answer as to the requirements of the law, he passed
by all the mass of ceremonial and ritualistic precepts. For
these he claimed no value, but presented the two great
principles on which hang all the law and the prophets.
The Saviour's commendation of this answer placed Him on
vantage ground with the rabbis. They could not condemn
Him for sanctioning that which had been advanced by an
expositor of the law.
"This do, and thou shalt live," Christ said. In His
teaching He ever presented the law as a divine unity,
showing that it is impossible to keep one precept and break
another; for the same principle runs through all. Man's [p. 378] destiny will be determined by his obedience to the whole law.
Christ knew that no one could obey the law in his own
strength. He desired to lead the lawyer to clearer and
more critical research that he might find the truth. Only
by accepting the virtue and grace of Christ can we keep the
law. Belief in the propitiation for sin enables fallen man
to love God with his whole heart and his neighbor as
The lawyer knew that he had kept neither the first four
nor the last six commandments. He was convicted under
Christ's searching words, but instead of confessing his sin
he tried to excuse it. Rather than acknowledge the truth,
he endeavored to show how difficult of fulfillment the [p. 379] commandment is. Thus he hoped both to parry conviction
and to vindicate himself in the eyes of the people. The
Saviour's words had shown that his question was needless,
since he was able to answer it himself. Yet he put another
question, saying, "Who is my neighbour?"
Again Christ refused to be drawn into controversy. He
answered the question by relating an incident, the memory
of which was fresh in the minds of His hearers. "A certain
man," He said, "went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and
fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and
wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead."
In journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho, the traveler
had to pass through a portion of the wilderness of Judea.
The road led down a wild, rocky ravine, which was infested
with robbers, and was often the scene of violence. It was
here that the traveler was attacked, stripped of all that
was valuable, and left half dead by the wayside. As he
lay thus, a priest came that way; he saw the man lying
wounded and bruised, weltering in his own blood; but he
left him without rendering any assistance. He "passed by
on the other side." Then a Levite appeared. Curious
to know what had happened, he stopped and looked at the
sufferer. He was convicted of what he ought to do, but
it was not an agreeable duty. He wished that he had not
come that way so that he would not have seen the wounded
man. He persuaded himself that the case was no concern
of his, and he too "passed by on the other side."
But a Samaritan, traveling the same road, saw the
sufferer, and he did the work that the others had refused
to do. With gentleness and kindness he ministered to the
wounded man. "When he saw him, he had compassion
on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring
in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought [p. 380] him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow
when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them
to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and
whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will
repay thee." The priest and the Levite both professed
piety, but the Samaritan showed that he was truly
converted. It was no more agreeable for him to do the work
than for the priest and the Levite, but in spirit and works
he proved himself to be in harmony with God.
In giving this lesson, Christ presented the principles of
the law in a direct, forcible way, showing His hearers that
they had neglected to carry out these principles. His words
were so definite and pointed that the listeners could find no
opportunity to cavil. The lawyer found in the lesson nothing
that he could criticize. His prejudice in regard to
Christ was removed. But he had not overcome his national
dislike sufficiently to give credit to the Samaritan by name.
When Christ asked, "Which now of these three, thinkest
thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?"
he answered, "He that showed mercy on him."
"Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."
Show the same tender kindness to those in need. Thus
you will give evidence that you keep the whole law.
The great difference between the Jews and the Samaritans
was a difference in religious belief, a question as to
what constitutes true worship. The Pharisees would say
nothing good of the Samaritans, but poured their bitterest
curses upon them. So strong was the antipathy between the
Jews and the Samaritans that to the Samaritan woman it
seemed a strange thing for Christ to ask her for a drink.
"How is it," she said, "that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink
of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" "For," adds the
evangelist, "the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." [p. 381] John 4:9. And when the Jews were so filled with
murderous hatred against Christ that they rose up in the
temple to stone Him, they could find no better words by
which to express their hatred than, "Say we not well that
Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?" John 8:48. Yet
the priest and Levite neglected the very work the Lord had
enjoined on them, leaving a hated and despised Samaritan
to minister to one of their own countrymen.
The Samaritan had fulfilled the command, "Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself," thus showing that he was
more righteous than those by whom he was denounced.
Risking his own life, he had treated the wounded man as
his brother. This Samaritan represents Christ. Our Saviour [p. 382] manifested for us a love that the love of man can never
equal. When we were bruised and dying, He had pity
upon us. He did not pass us by on the other side, and
leave us, helpless and hopeless, to perish. He did not
remain in His holy, happy home, where He was beloved
by all the heavenly host. He beheld our sore need, He
undertook our case, and identified His interests with those
of humanity. He died to save His enemies. He prayed
for His murderers. Pointing to His own example, He says
to His followers, "These things I command you, that ye
love one another"; "as I have loved you, that ye also love
one another." John 15:17; 13:34.
The priest and the Levite had been for worship to the
temple whose service was appointed by God Himself. To
participate in that service was a great and exalted privilege,
and the priest and Levite felt that having been thus honored,
it was beneath them to minister to an unknown sufferer by
the wayside. Thus they neglected the special opportunity
which God had offered them as His agents to bless a
Many today are making a similar mistake. They
separate their duties into two distinct classes. The one
class is made up of great things, to be regulated by the
law of God; the other class is made up of so-called little
things, in which the command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself," is ignored. This sphere of work is left to
caprice, subject to inclination or impulse. Thus the character
is marred, and the religion of Christ misrepresented.
There are those who would think it lowering to their
dignity to minister to suffering humanity. Many look with
indifference and contempt upon those who have laid the
temple of the soul in ruins. Others neglect the poor from
a different motive. They are working, as they believe, in
the cause of Christ, seeking to build up some worthy [p. 383] enterprise. They feel that they are doing a great work,
and they cannot stop to notice the wants of the needy and
distressed. In advancing their supposedly great work they
may even oppress the poor. They may place them in hard
and trying circumstances, deprive them of their rights, or
neglect their needs. Yet they feel that all this is justifiable
because they are, as they think, advancing the cause of
Many will allow a brother or a neighbor to struggle
unaided under adverse circumstances. Because they profess
to be Christians he may be led to think that in their cold
selfishness they are representing Christ. Because the
Lord's professed servants are not in co-operation with Him,
the love of God, which should flow forth from them, is in
great degree cut off from their fellow men. And a large
revenue of praise and thanksgiving from human hearts and
human lips is prevented from flowing back to God. He is
robbed of the glory due to His holy name. He is robbed
of the souls for whom Christ died, souls whom He longs
to bring into His kingdom to dwell in His presence through
Divine truth exerts little influence upon the world, when
it should exert much influence through our practice. The
mere profession of religion abounds, but it has little weight.
We may claim to be followers of Christ, we may claim to
believe every truth in the word of God; but this will do
our neighbor no good unless our belief is carried into our
daily life. Our profession may be as high as heaven,
but it will save neither ourselves nor our fellow men unless
we are Christians. A right example will do more to benefit
the world than all our profession.
By no selfish practices can the cause of Christ be served.
His cause is the cause of the oppressed and the poor. In [p. 384] the hearts of His professed followers there is need of the
tender sympathy of Christ—a deeper love for those whom
He has so valued as to give His own life for their salvation.
These souls are precious, infinitely more precious than any
other offering we can bring to God. To bend every energy
toward some apparently great work, while we neglect the
needy or turn the stranger from his right, is not a service
that will meet His approval.
The sanctification of the soul by the working of the
Holy Spirit is the implanting of Christ's nature in humanity.
Gospel religion is Christ in the life—a living, active
principle. It is the grace of Christ revealed in character
and wrought out in good works. The principles of the
gospel cannot be disconnected from any department of
practical life. Every line of Christian experience and labor
is to be a representation of the life of Christ.
Love is the basis of godliness. Whatever the profession,
no man has pure love to God unless he has unselfish love
for his brother. But we can never come into possession of
this spirit by trying to love others. What is needed is
the love of Christ in the heart. When self is merged in
Christ, love springs forth spontaneously. The completeness
of Christian character is attained when the impulse
to help and bless others springs constantly from within—
when the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed
in the countenance.
It is not possible for the heart in which Christ abides to
be destitute of love. If we love God because He first loved
us, we shall love all for whom Christ died. We cannot
come in touch with divinity without coming in touch with
humanity; for in Him who sits upon the throne of the
universe, divinity and humanity are combined. Connected
with Christ, we are connected with our fellow men by the [p. 385] golden links of the chain of love. Then the pity and
compassion of Christ will be manifest in our life. We shall
not wait to have the needy and unfortunate brought to us.
We shall not need to be entreated to feel for the woes of
others. It will be as natural for us to minister to the
needy and suffering as it was for Christ to go about doing
Wherever there is an impulse of love and sympathy,
wherever the heart reaches out to bless and uplift others,
there is revealed the working of God's Holy Spirit. In
the depths of heathenism, men who have had no knowledge
of the written law of God, who have never even heard
the name of Christ, have been kind to His servants, protecting
them at the risk of their own lives. Their acts show
the working of a divine power. The Holy Spirit has
implanted the grace of Christ in the heart of the savage,
quickening his sympathies contrary to his nature, contrary
to his education. The "Light which lighteth every man
that cometh into the world" (John 1:9), is shining in
his soul; and this light, if heeded, will guide his feet to
the kingdom of God. [p. 386]
The glory of heaven is in lifting up the fallen, comforting
the distressed. And wherever Christ abides in human
hearts, He will be revealed in the same way. Wherever it
acts, the religion of Christ will bless. Wherever it works,
there is brightness.
No distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste,
is recognized by God. He is the Maker of all mankind. All
men are of one family by creation, and all are one through
redemption. Christ came to demolish every wall of
partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple, that
every soul may have free access to God. His love is so
broad, so deep, so full, that it penetrates everywhere. It
lifts out of Satan's circle the poor souls who have been
deluded by this deceptions. It places them within reach of
the throne of God, the throne encircled by the rainbow of
In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free.
All are brought nigh by His precious blood. (Gal. 3:28;
Whatever the difference in religious belief, a call from
suffering humanity must be heard and answered. Where
bitterness of feeling exists because of difference in religion,
much good may be done by personal service. Loving
ministry will break down prejudice, and win souls to God.
We should anticipate the sorrows, the difficulties, the
troubles of others. We should enter into the joys and cares
of both high and low, rich and poor. "Freely ye have
received," Christ says, "freely give." Matt. 10:8. All
around us are poor, tried souls that need sympathizing
words and helpful deeds. There are widows who need
sympathy and assistance. There are orphans whom Christ
has bidden His followers receive as a trust from God. Too
often these are passed by with neglect. They may be
ragged, uncouth, and seemingly in every way unattractive;
yet they are God's property. They have been bought with a [p. 387] price, and they are as precious in His sight as we are.
They are members of God's great household, and Christians
as His stewards are responsible for them. "Their souls,"
He says, "will I require at thine hand."
Sin is the greatest of all evils, and it is ours to pity
and help the sinner. But not all can reached in the same
way. There are many who hide their soul hunger. These
would be greatly helped by a tender word or a kind
remembrance. There are others who are in the greatest
need, yet they know it not. They do not realize the
terrible destitution of the soul. Multitudes are so sunken in
sin that they have lost the sense of eternal realities, lost the
similitude of God, and they hardly know whether they have
souls to be saved or not. They have neither faith in God
nor confidence in man. Many of these can be reached only
through acts of disinterested kindness. Their physical
wants must first be cared for. They must be fed, cleansed,
and decently clothed. As they see the evidence of your
unselfish love, it will be easier for them to believe in the
love of Christ.
There are many who err, and who feel their shame and
their folly. They look upon their mistakes and errors
until they are driven almost to desperation. These souls we
are not to neglect. When one has to swim against the
stream, there is all the force of the current driving him
back. Let a helping hand then be held out to him as
was the Elder Brother's hand to the sinking Peter. Speak
to him hopeful words, words that will establish confidence
and awaken love.
Thy brother, sick in spirit, needs thee, as thou thyself
hast needed a brother's love. He needs the experience of
one who has been as weak as he, one who can sympathize
with him and help him. The knowledge of our own weakness
should help us to help another in his bitter need. [p. 388] Never should we pass by one suffering soul without seeking
to impart to him the comfort wherewith we are comforted
It is fellowship with Christ, personal contact with a living
Saviour, that enables the mind and heart and soul to
triumph over the lower nature. Tell the wanderer of an
almighty hand that will hold him up, of an infinite humanity
in Christ that pities him. It is not enough for him to
believe in law and force, things that have no pity, and never
hear the cry for help. He needs to clasp a hand that is
warm, to trust in a heart full of tenderness. Keep his mind
stayed upon the thought of a divine presence ever beside
him, ever looking upon him with pitying love. Bid him
think of a Father's heart that ever grieves over sin, of a
Father's hand stretched out still, of a Father's voice saying,
"Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace
with Me, and he shall make peace." Isa. 27:5.
As you engage in this work, you have companions
unseen by human eyes. Angels of heaven were beside the
Samaritan who cared for the wounded stranger. Angels
from the heavenly courts stand by all who do God's service
in ministering to their fellow men. And you have the
co-operation of Christ Himself. He is the Restorer, and as
you work under His supervision, you will see great results.
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copy of this enlightening book about the parables of Christ.
Upon your faithfulness in this work not only the well-being
of others but your own eternal destiny depends.
Christ is seeking to uplift all who will be lifted to
companionship with Himself, that we may be one with Him as
He is one with the Father. He permits us to come in contact
with suffering and calamity in order to call us out of
our selfishness; He seeks to develop in us the attributes
of His character—compassion, tenderness, and love. By
accepting this work of ministry we place ourselves in His [p. 389] school, to be fitted for the courts of God. By rejecting it,
we reject His instruction, and choose eternal separation
from His presence.
"If thou wilt keep My charge," the Lord declares, "I
will give thee places to walk among these that stand by"
—even among the angels that surround His throne. (Zech.
3:7.) By co-operating with heavenly beings in their work
on earth, we are preparing for their companionship in
heaven. "Ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for
them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Heb. 1:14), angels
in heaven will welcome those who on earth have lived "not
to be ministered unto, but to minister" (Matt. 20:28).
In this blessed companionship we shall learn, to our eternal
joy, all that is wrapped up in the question, "Who is my
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"The Reward of Grace"