Most of us have heard the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10. Generally speaking, we like it, right? It hits all the major plot points that we crave in a good story: an underdog, villains, a hero, tragedy, all wrapped up in neat and tidy feel-good ending.
I’m glad we agree that it’s a great parable, but we’re not really going to discuss the Good Samaritan today. Nope. Today, let's talk about what brought that parable forth: the desire for justification - the hope of being excused.
So, what was the question that was asked and who did the asking? Let’s review by looking at Luke 10:25-30:
One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”
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 said. “Do this and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus took up this question and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers…”
And so the parable begins.
Let’s start with the who: an expert in the law, a.k.a. - a lawyer. By our standards, we would consider someone in his position to be an authority on justice. Clearly he views himself in the same way because we see in verse 25 that he stood up to test Jesus.
Baaahahaha! Ok... Hold on…. Just a sec… I’m just….oh man, I’m just trying… (oh gosh, my eyes are watering!)... trying to take it in…
Hilarious, right? A guy who knows some stuff about laws wants to go toe to toe in front of a crowd with The Justifier. (In this context, I understand that title makes Jesus sound like He is a part of Wrestlemania… but it works for my illustration, so I’m good with it. Also, I think God has an awesome sense of humor.)
So here we are with a front row seat as the One who created the concept of justice, is getting pop quizzed by the substitute teacher of justice. It’s like me thinking that because I know some of the lyrics, I could sit down with Paul McCartney and explain to him every Beatles song ever written.
Now, let’s look at the question: The lawyer begins by asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds by asking him a question, “What is written?...” because, well, He’s God and He knows what this is really all about. When the lawyer responds, Jesus is gracious enough to affirm him, even knowing this man’s motives, because, well, He’s generous like that.
Sometimes lawyers are known for being pushy. This guy was a pushy lawyer. Because he wanted to justify himself, because he wanted further affirmation that he was smart and Jesus was crazy, he went for it: “And who is my neighbor?”
From there, the parable takes off and we go on to learn that anyone, everyone, all of humanity, is our neighbor.
...Hold on for a sec, that's not even the main theme of the post, but let's just take a moment to let that sink in...
Ok, so, you’ve probably heard a fun line before that goes something like “If you don’t want the answer, don’t ask the question.” This implies that we already know the answer. Why then, would we ask it? That seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?
And yet… Here we are. Again and again.
We want justification. We seek it out. We think we need the exception to be made for us for whatever the circumstance. Suddenly, this image - the lawyer trying to overpower the Creator of the Universe with his 'extensive' understanding of the rules of a singular culture - becomes sobering and uncomfortably relatable.
Because we are made in the image of the One True God, He has imprinted certain things on our hearts. Whether we know Jesus or not, we all have an inherent desire to be justified and to seek justice in our lives.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord your God.”
The desire for justice is a good thing, it is designed for us and required of us. But there is something else which He did not design for us that often distorts our view, and that, friends, is our pride.
Pride elevates our desires above those of God and our needs above those of our neighbor. If we are called to love our neighbor, then the hunger we feel for justice should apply to them. When the desire for justice is eclipsed by our pride, we construct excuses to mask the underlying issue.
We want to be excused, with full understanding and support, and with zero consequence. We want to know that it is ok that we didn’t help that woman in the grocery parking lot when her bag broke. We were already running late and 3 other people saw. Surely one of them will do it.
Here is the good news: Jesus is the filter through which we can run all of our thoughts and desires. The Holy Spirit is our guide, who helps us to understand the root of our desire to be excused. Through Him, we are able to see the greater whole - and not only see it, but battle for it.
The deeper we lean into Him and follow the directives of the Counselor who was gifted to us then our vision transitions from a stunted and inward perspective to this transformative panorama of what it means for everyone, literally everyone, to be our neighbor.
Now, I know it is simple enough for me to type up these words. Saying is one thing, doing is another thing entirely. (And let me say, I write this post on the tail of some personal conviction, so I am right here, exploring these concepts alongside you.) This is why we take up our cross daily, we get into the Word. We let the Word transform our heart, which is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23) We lean into Jesus. A simple concept that our flesh works hard to complicate.
From that wellspring, conversation flows. A heart that is confident in Christ leaves no room for the insecurities that call for validation.
Here is where we find it truly is easy: we don’t have to fight to be justified anymore. We already have been. He battled for us in death and He holds the victory. He advocates for us before the throne of God. If you have been looking for good representation, you already have THE BEST Lawyer money could never buy.
Where do you seek to be excused in your life and who are you asking to validate you? Talk to God and ask Him to help you uncover the truths behind those desires. Talk and pray about it with a trusted friend who can offer accountability in the future.
Leave a comment below and let us know:
There's healing in confession and this is a safe place. If you feel lead, share in the comments what your excuses are covering. Let the community here pray for you and offer encouragement. Have you overcome an area in your life where you previously sought validation? Share and let your experience uplift someone else.