But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” – Lk. 10:29 NIV
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The scripture for today’s Devotional is part of a conversation between a man whom the bible described as an expert in the law. He had chosen, in the words of the bible to test Jesus so he asked him a question which was supposed to indicate his desire to know what he needed to do, to inherit eternal life, after all, he was supposed to be a Teacher – Lk. 10:25. Jesus Christ responded to his question by asking him what the law, which he claims expertise on, said in that regard and how he was interpreting it – Lk. 10:26. He responded and rightly too, as acknowledged by Jesus Christ, that it was to completely love Jehovah God and to equally love neighbors as oneself – Matt. 22:37-40. Jesus then advised him to go and live by those biblical injunctions but, he quickly responded by telling him to identify for him, who his neighbor is – Lk. 10:25-29. Jesus Christ chose not to give him a direct response, but rather decided to use a story for illustration.
Though the bible was not clear whether it was the man that considered himself an expert in law or whether that was the assessment of people of him, it was clear about the intention of the man, which was to test Jesus. What is equally clear is the man’s rating of himself, which was revealed in his intention to the advise given by Jesus that he should go and do all that was in the law – Lk. 10:29. He asked a question which ordinarily would have been considered good except that the intention behind the question was very negative. The Bible said that it was in his attempt to justify himself, that he asked Jesus for clarification on who a neighbor is.
Self-justification is the act of excusing oneself or one’s acts. It is usually done to impress on those who care to know, that one is right on an issue, even though, such an individual may be right or wrong. It is usually an act by someone who desires to prove some form of superiority over others or generally attempt to intimidate others with achievements. So it can be concluded that this expert in law suddenly identified a competition between himself and Jesus, which was why he decided to test him, and also wanted to prove to the people that he was better informed on the subject matter than Jesus Christ. To him, he was not asking because he did not know but probably because he wanted to prove that Jesus was not as knowledgeable, as he is. In such circumstances, he was never going to get a direct response from Jesus Christ, because he harbored negative intentions. No wonder James in his letter to all Christians highlighted this point too as the reason why people ask and never receive – Jms. 4:3.
Most Christians are like that today, not only in their relationship with God, but even when relating with fellow men, as their intention for an act is usually masked in innocence, and so they are able to deceive others. It may be true that he honestly did not know and wanted to be educated on the topic, but the intention to test will always be a problem. God dislikes a situation where men test Him, and this was one major factor why a lot of the Israelites died in the wilderness and did not enter the Promised Land – Psa. 95:8-9; Heb. 3:9.
One may seek information from Him to enhance one’s knowledge and awareness about Him or to help some others in having a better relationship with Him, but it should never be for reasons of testing Him. That is at the minimum, an indication of wanting to prove that you possess more or superior knowledge, in comparison to Him, a scenario that will never be true . You will never be as knowledgeable as Him or his son Jesus Christ.
When you present your requests to Him, ensure that they do not give the impression or you do not have an intention, obvious or hidden, of wanting to test him. The so called expert in law, got away with his insolence by simply getting an indirect response from Jesus Christ, but you may not be that lucky, as it may be the reason why you will not arrive at that desired destination or achieve that long desired goal. May the words of our mouth and our intentions behind them remain acceptable to him always in Jesus name. Amen.