As a pastor, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the law and how it ties into our salvation. However, studying the law can be cumbersome. As such, Jesus’ summary of the law- loving God and our neighbors- makes it easy to study the law. During one such session, I sought to find out, “How many times is neighbor mentioned in the Bible?”
The word neighbor appears over 140 times in the Bible. There isn’t a fixed number because appearances differ with the version. For instance, it appears 143 in the NKJV, 144 in KJV, 141 in NIV, and 150 in ESV. We see it first mentioned in Exodus 3:22, referring to the Egyptians living near the Jews.
Here, I’ll explore what the Bible says about our neighbors. I hope that you’ll have a clearer picture of what it means to love your neighbor as yourself and why Jesus classified this as a great commandment.
What does the Bible say about a neighbor?
The Bible teaches that we have a moral duty toward our neighbors. According to Leviticus 19:16-18, we shouldn’t hold grudges against our neighbors or seek vengeance. Furthermore, we shouldn’t hate or slander our neighbors. The Bible also teaches that we should be kind toward our neighbors, willing to help them when in need (Luke 10:37).
What does neighbor mean in Matthew 22:39?
Jesus, in Matthew 22:39, quoted Leviticus 19:16 when responding to a question from the crowd. The context at the time of Jesus suggests that a neighbor is anyone around us– in our neighborhoods and towns. Interestingly, Jesus didn’t specify the neighbor’s background or religion. Therefore, we can deduce that a neighbor is anyone within our reach, regardless of faith, wealth, or race.
Why did Jesus say loving your neighbor is a great commandment?
Because it’s the easiest way to prove our love for God (1 John 4:20) and a mark of true discipleship (John 13:35). It’s impossible to claim to love God while we hate our neighbor. As the apostle John put it, a person making such a claim is a liar. Jesus summarized the law into two, love for God and love for our neighbors. He went on to teach that a mark of true discipleship is love for one another.
What does it mean to love your neighbor as you love yourself?
Loving your neighbor as yourself means treating them as you would treat yourself. We first see this in Leviticus 19:9-18. Here, God outlines what He means by loving your neighbor as yourself.
Sharing our resources
First, God encourages selflessness when dealing with our neighbors. In Leviticus 19:9-10, God commanded the Israelites to leave the fringes of their land for the poor and widows. Doing so ensured their poor neighbors didn’t go hungry. We can apply this today by willingly sharing our resources with our neighbors. This could be our time, money, or even food.
Treat them fairly
Next, God commanded the Israelites to exercise fairness in dealing with their neighbors (Leviticus 19:15). He warns against withholding a laborer’s wages till the next day, tripping the blind, and insulting the deaf. God wants us to treat everyone fairly and respectfully, despite their social status or disabilities.
Respect them even in their absence
Finally, God commands us to steer clear of gossip and slander (Leviticus 19:16). Obeying this means we respect our neighbors even in their absence. We shouldn’t gossip or slander them.
What are some examples of loving your neighbor in the Bible?
- Deuteronomy 27:17 warns against shifting an existing boundary.
- Leviticus 19:17 commands us to tell the truth to our neighbors.
- Joshua 10:7-9 narrates how Joshua protected the Gibeonites against the Amorites.
- Judges 19:20 tells us how a stranger showed kindness to a Levite and his companions.
- Ruth 2:15 narrates how Boaz helped Ruth.
- 2 Samuel 9:1 shows how David showed compassion to Mephibosheth.
- 1 Kings 17:9-12 tells the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. She was a good neighbor to the prophet.
- 2 Kings 4:8 tells how the Shunemite woman treated Elisha.
- Luke 10:25-37 tells how the samaritan was a good neighbor to the battered man.
- Acts 28:2-6 describes how the natives of Malta were kind to Paul and his companions.
How do you love your neighbor as you love yourself, as Jesus commands in Mark 12:31?
As mentioned, loving our neighbors as ourselves makes it easier for us to gauge our obedience to the command to love. Here are three practical ways to obey this command.
Be ready to lend a hand
The most practical way to obey this commandment is to help those in need. We see this perfectly in the Good Samaritan. When he saw the battered man, the Samaritan stopped, attended to his wounds, and spent his resources to secure care at an inn. This is the attitude we ought to have towards those around us.
Respect your neighbor’s property
Another way to love our neighbors is to respect their property. God commanded this in Leviticus 19:13. We can do this by caring for borrowed items and refraining from stealing or coveting.
Tell your neighbor the truth
The best way to love our neighbors is to deal honestly with them. This could be in our business or personal interactions. Furthermore, we should correct them when they sin (Proverbs 27:5).
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.