Extra Credit

At the beginning of each school year, the teacher would tell our class what we needed to do to get a good grade in that class: come to class on time, pay attention, complete homework and projects when due, do well on pop quizzes and tests. Yet, even with those clear instructions, there were many who tried to get the good grade another way (cheating, making flimsy excuses, trying to be the teacher’s pet, etc.) – and who finally wound up begging for extra credit assignments toward the end of the semester to bring the grade up.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we find someone else who wants some specific instructions – and maybe some extra credit too. Let’s listen in:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29)

Because Jesus is the Son of God, He knew the heart-intent of the man and knew that this “expert in religious law” was testing Him. And as Jesus was often apt to do, He answered a question with a question. The expert confidently answered Jesus’ question and got an “A” for his answer. 

But then that expert decided to justify his actions (or perhaps look for a loophole), so he asked for some clarification about who his neighbor might be. Maybe he just wanted to double-check how far he should go in being neighborly – not too much, not too little – just the right amount of neighborliness – and probably only to those neighbors who were really good people! 

Like the students in my classroom, he wanted some specific guidelines  – perhaps how far away they could be located and still be considered a “neighbor.” However, Jesus does not seem to be very concerned about rule following – He seems more concerned about the heart – whether or not it’s a heart filled with love for God and love for one’s neighbor.

Toward the end of your life, do you think you’ll be begging for opportunities for extra credit in the matter of being loving and neighborly – or do you think it might be better for you to choose right now to consistently and faithfully embrace opportunities to love your neighbor? 

By Judy Shrout

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