The other night, my wife and I were in Dallas celebrating our anniversary. We were dressed for a very nice dinner and a show. We were headed home and I was tired. Walking to the car, we saw a lady in an SUV parked near us who couldn’t get her car started.
I kept walking. “Don’t you want to give her a jump?” my wife asked. No, I want to get home, it’s late…I thought. “Sure!” I said. Turns out, the lady (with a baby in a car seat) didn’t need a jump. She had a tricky starter that finally fired.
But the only reason I know is because I asked. And the only reason I asked is because my wife made me.
It got me thinking about Jesus’ famous parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). You know the story. Jesus told it to answer the question “Who is my neighbor?” In the story, a hated Samaritan helped a man in need, while two clergymen (a priest and a rabbi) passed him by.
The two who failed to help probably weren’t “bad” people. They may have been out on the town, dressed for dinner and a show…tired and needing to get home. Maybe they didn’t have the time or the wherewithal to help.
Jesus introduces the story with this statement: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That is a quote from Leviticus 19:18 and comes in the midst of a string of Old Testament ethical commands.
Here’s one in the list: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:9-10).”
It may sound strange. It may sound like a poor business practice, but God’s describing “margin.” In our church budget, we don’t plan to spend every dollar that is given. We leave a margin…a little extra in case of emergencies. God tells the farmers and commercial harvesters to leave a margin for the poor.
Those in need would follow the harvesters and glean the leftovers for themselves and their families. In this way, the wealthy farmers could help their poor neighbors and fulfill God’s command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I don’t know many people who don’t want to help others. In fact, most people I know really do want to help others. But they have no margins. They have no extra time. No extra energy. No extra finances.
Being a good neighbor sometimes “just happens.” But most of the time, like a budget, it requires a bit of planning. As we head into 2019, look at your margins. Clear some time. Say no to some things. Set some money aside for a cause you support. In 2019, let’s love our neighbors as ourselves.