Because of the Pharisees’ subtle insertion of the word “only” into Leviticus 19:18, they ultimately taught that you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy (cf. Matthew 5:43). Considering this, it ought to be pretty apparent why white-hot controversies arose among the Jews in the first century over the question of “Who is my neighbor?”
As Luke so astutely observes (Luke 10:29), those who debated this question had a highly vested, quite personal interest in its answer. Self-justification was at stake.
Most Pharisees—and most likely the lawyer who sought to test Jesus in Luke 10:25ff—defined one’s neighbor as being a fellow Jew who shared property lines with you. What a breathtakingly literal definition! How incredibly easier this made the requirement of the second greatest commandment! Oh what grave spiritual peril self-justification creates!
Jesus’ memorable parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) perfectly illustrates heaven’s definition of your neighbor. In God’s eyes, this is not a geographical question determined by longitude and latitude; it is a spiritual one.
Your neighbor is anyone you have the ability and opportunity to help.
What you do with that opportunity determines whether you are a sheep or a goat (Matthew 25:31-46).