Luke 10:29

ESV But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
NIV But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'
NASB But wanting to justify himself, he said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'
CSB But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor? "
NLT The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'
KJV But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

What does Luke 10:29 mean?

Jesus is interacting with a lawyer of the Pharisees: an expert in both the Mosaic and Oral Laws. After the return from exile in Babylon, Jewish religious leaders wanted to ensure Jews would remain faithful to God and not risk another exile. They added extra regulations to the Mosaic law to guard people from coming near to breaking the Law. Over time, those were treated as mandatory and just as important as the written laws of Moses. Jesus condemns these added regulations, calling them "heavy burdens, hard to bear" (Matthew 23:4).

This lawyer asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus, in turn, challenges him to find the answer in the Mosaic law. The lawyer answers correctly, saying he must love God and love his neighbor. Yet he wants minute details—implying loopholes—such as the Oral Law would give (Luke 10:25–28). He asks Jesus to define "neighbor." He may be thinking of the laws to treat "the sons of your own people" as neighbors and the sojourner, who would obey the basics of the Mosaic law, as a native (Leviticus 19:18, 33–34). To the scribe, this may mean devout Jews and proselytes, but certainly not anyone who was not faithful to the Law.

Jesus responds in an unusual way. He has already spoken extensively on what it means to love one's enemy (Luke 6:27–36). Now He flips it and tells the story of a Samaritan who loves his Jewish enemy. Love turns an enemy into a neighbor.

The lawyer asks this question seeking to "justify himself." We see this with the rich ruler, as well (Mark 10:17–22). The young man asks the same question: how to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies with the second half of the Ten Commandments, which describe proper treatment of other people. The man affirms he had lived by those rules. Jesus saw it was true and "looking at him, love[s] him" (Mark 10:21). But, as with the lawyer, Jesus doesn't let him off the hook. He tells the young man to sell everything and give to the poor. It's not that total abandonment of material goods is required to be saved, but that a heart completely dedicated to God will be willing to sacrifice anything He asks for the sake of following Him.

In the same way, Jesus will tell the lawyer that everyone is his neighbor—even his enemies. A heart completely dedicated to God will be willing to demonstrate love even to those who oppose them. None of us naturally have such hearts, however. It's why we need Jesus' sacrifice. No person can justify themselves. But if we accept forgiveness from Christ, He becomes our justification (Romans 3:19–26).
What is the Gospel?
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