God sent his law to the patriarchs and to the Jews not to demonstrate a minimum acceptable requirement, but to help them remain holy. The law was given as the way to live before God.
Mankind promptly made a mess of God’s law. An example of how the Jews of Jesus’ day were so pitiful with their idea of the law is the definition of the word, “neighbor,” in Luke chapter 10.
A lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. “How do you read the law?” Jesus asked. The man quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, known by the Jews as the “Shema.” It was the first commandment to love God with every fiber of being. Verse 29 is important. This expert in the law asked Jesus, “And, who is my neighbor?” He asked this, the Bible tells us, to make himself look righteous.
It wasn’t enough for the lawyer to go and do what Jesus said. The term “neighbor” had to be defined. There had to be a minimum and a maximum allowable obedience to the law, the lawyer thought.
We treat our laws the same way. People are supposed to stop at those red, octagonal signs, but they’ve decided that slowing down is good enough. People are supposed to obey the speed laws, but they’ve decided driving five-miles-per-hour or more is acceptable. Laws have become guidelines that humans may themselves determine. The laws, therefore, are not matters of objective truth but are matters of personal opinion. There is no wonder why we have so many traffic fatalities.
God gave us a law so that if we tried to obey it we could not only have happier lives on earth but also we would learn to live eternally with him. Man made the law a series of requirements to be met. Jesus taught the law was a manner of life to which man should aspire. God always knew we could become better people. He knew we always had the potential to become more than what we are.
The answer to the lawyer was the well-known “Parable of the Good Samaritan.” Of the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan who was the wounded man’s neighbor? Simply, it was the Samaritan who helped him. The application of the parable to the lawyer was also simple: “Go and do likewise.”
I wonder if the lawyer did.