Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself (Mark 12:31)
I once saw a talk show in which the host asked his guests what they thought the most important words ever spoken or written were. One guest quoted a line from Shakespeare. Another quoted a line from Thomas Jefferson. The final guest quoted a line from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream Speech.” Their responses were disappointing to say the least. Had I been a guest on that show, I would have simply replied that the most important words ever written are the Word of God. If pressed to be more specific, I would have quoted two passages from Scripture. The first would have been the opening sentence of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The second would have been the words of Jesus Christ from Mark 12:31 where He said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” All human quotes, no matter how lofty or erudite, pale in comparison to God’s words.
For the purposes of this blog, I focus on the second quote from Scripture; Jesus Christ’s words from the Greatest Commandment. Consider how powerful these seven words are. They encompass and summarize all ten of the commandments God handed down to Moses. If everyone in the world obeyed these seven words, all of the sadness, trouble, and strife that characterizes life in a fallen world would be eliminated. Of course, that level of perfection is of the hereafter not the here and now. However, you and I can do our parts to make the world a better place by putting these seven words spoken by Jesus into action.
Christ’s words are about selflessly giving of ourselves. Giving in the Biblical sense is about serving others with no expectation of receiving anything in return. You might give of your time, expertise, assistance, money, or any number of other assets. When you give to others in need, you are engaging in Biblical giving. Of course, before we can obey the second part of the Greatest Commandment, we must be willing to obey the first part: loving God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Only when we love God in this way are we able to give of ourselves to help our neighbors. And remember, all of God’s children who are in need qualify as our neighbors.
People often think of giving only in monetary terms. I don’t wish to disparage financial giving; it is important. Often money is what’s needed most by those in need and the charitable organizations that serve them. But donating money is not the only way to give. In fact, in some cases it’s not even the best way. As Christians we should never donate money as a way to avoid giving our time, expertise, or assistance. Nor should we write a check in lieu of rolling up our sleeves and getting involved in worthwhile charity projects.
If you see someone struggling to change a flat tire, what they need is your assistance not your money. Here are a few examples of giving that don’t involve money, at least not directly:
A student who is good at math gives to students who aren’t by tutoring them and assisting with their homework.
A mechanic gives by making car repairs for people who cannot afford them.
A physician gives by using his vacation every year for medical missionary trips.
An accountant volunteers to help elderly patients in nursing homes file their tax returns.
A chef volunteers his services one night a week to prepare gourmet meals for residents of a local homeless shelter.
A florist creates bouquets and donates them to patients in the local hospital.
A lawyer provides pro bono legal services to poor people who cannot afford an attorney.
A retired general helps military veterans assimilate into civilian society and find jobs.
A carpenter who lives in Florida volunteers to help repair houses damaged in hurricanes.
A teenager spends Saturdays in the summer as a volunteer lifeguard at a local pool.
The list of non-monetary ways to give could go on forever, but what is important is to understand that although giving money appropriately is important, it’s not the only way we can give. God is also pleased when we give of our talents, expertise, time, experience, and other assets he has given us. God gives us the assets we enjoy, and he expects us to give back a portion (Proverbs 3:9).
We can give in the form of money, time, expertise, experience, assistance, or in other ways. Preferably, we will give in all of these ways as needs dictate. One other thing to remember is this. Even if you have no money to give, you can always give of yourself. You have much to offer people who are in need—time, expertise, labor, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on—and God is pleased when you give these things to your neighbor.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com