4 Ways to Become a Better Neighbor

Man Needs a Good Neighbor

Jesus says we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He says that it is vitally important that we also we love our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37).

A man hearing the teaching of Jesus asked, who is my neighbor?

We’ve heard the story so many times that perhaps our ears close as the familiar words wisp past us.

But, listen again to the question: Who is my neighbor?

Jesus answers the question by helping us identify the proper conduct of one who is neighborly. He describes a good neighbor based on how we act toward others in need. In order to do this we are introduced to a man who is beaten, broken, disposed, and in deep need.

Jesus affirms that the second most important command relates to how we treat people in need.

A bad neighbor is one who passes by. They ignore the hurt, the suffering, and the needs of others. They are preoccupied with their own needs, their own wish list, and their own agenda. Religious people – yes, Christians – can be bad neighbors.

We probably all have ways we justify our poor neighborly behavior. But should we really?

How many times have I walked past someone who needed a neighbor?

Attributes of a Good Neighbor

1. They recognize the need.

They see the hurt and pain. We live in a world that has an overwhelming amount of hurt, pain, suffering, hunger, and famine. Sometimes the easiest thing is to simply ignore it. After all, we are too busy to make it a point to seek out hurt and pain.

2. They respond to need.

This is the hardest thing for me to do. I’ll be driving down the highway, and there’ll be a broken down car on the side of the road. Before I figure out what’s going on, I’m already miles down the road. Then starts the excuses. A person may come up to me and ask for something, and typically I dismiss the request before I’ve even heard what they have to say. I’m busy. I’m focused. I’m goal-oriented. Sometimes my neighbors get in the way, and I move on to the next task. This is not being a good neighbor.

Instead, I must learn to stop, listen, and respond.

3. If they are able, they give what is needed.

After seeing the hurt and stopping to assess the need, the good neighbor in Jesus’ story uses his own money to help put the man up in a hotel. There may be situations where we are unable to provide what is needed. But, what if we are able? Then to be a good neighbor, we must assist.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read the story of the Good Samaritan and shaken my head with disappointment at those cold religious leaders who refused to help a hurting man. Then I humbly look in the mirror and wonder if my actions don’t more frequently parallel the actions of those men instead of the Samaritan.

How to Become a Better Neighbor

1. View all of life as ministry.

Don’t just set aside Sundays for God. Readily admit that, though we make plans, it is God who directs our steps (Prov. 20:24). Open yourself for God given disruptions to your day. Realize that God’s agenda for your day should always trump your own. Stand ready.

2. Pray continuously.

When I was a kid, I thought this was a very dangerous Bible teaching. I wondered how people could drive and pray since praying always included the closing of eyes. However, I’ve realized this is an openness and constant search for God’s will throughout the day. Always ask the question, “God, what would you have me do in this situation?”

3. Educate yourself.

There is suffering, hurt, and hunger all around the world. The news doesn’t always bring those situations to our attention. To be a neighbor, you must seek those who are hurting.

4. Be a steward.

All we have belongs to God. We ought to manage our resources as if they belong to God and not just ourselves. How would God want us to use our money? Clearly God is pleased when we use our resources for God’s will and not just our own.

When Jesus finished telling this story, he said, “Go and do likewise”. So go, and do likewise!

What do you do to be ready to respond as a good neighbor when the situation arises? What other attributes do you think a good neighbor possesses?












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7 Comments
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  1. I believe every word that you wrote. However, in this day and age, there are so many people even in my church, that don’t try to help themselves. They are looking for a free handout. How do you discern who is legit and who is not? We had a pastor who stopped to help a woman on a busy Interstate and the woman came back months later and accused him of the unthinkable. After months of legal issues, the woman (who had mental issues) said she made it up and the case was dropped.
    Thank you.

    • Deb,
      Great question and great point.
      To be honest, I don’t think there is always a way to know who is legit and who is not.
      I’ve also been accused of an extramarital affair with an unstable homeless woman I was helping. Someone once threw a beer bottle at my truck after we helped moved him off the road (he was passed out in the middle of the road at 10:30 p.m.
      The key question in my mind is – what’s the alternative? In the Samaritan story the helper had no way to gauge the level of need and authenticity until he stopped to assess the situation. Even stopping to asses a situation involves riks. I think there is indeed a risk in helping.
      We want to be diligent to make wise and safe choices, but we don’t want to be paralyzed by the fear of what if.

  2. I’ve always loved the Good Samaritan parable becomes he identifies our neighbor as any stranger. It’s convicting to know that it isn’t just a neighbor next door or family and friends. It’s def good for us to keep this in mind.

  3. Craig, here are a couple of things I’ve observed in others that have inspired me…

    One friend always keeps a $50 tucked away in his wallet just in case he hears of a need at church or work that he might want to give toward. Whenever he gives it away, he just replenishes it with another one.

    Another couple I know (that I had breakfast with this morning, along with my three teenage boys) keeps a “homeless bag” in their car, which contains ready-to-eat food and snacks, along with some plasticware, a water bottle, and gospel tract of some kind. Whenever they see someone standing on the side of the road holding a “Hungry” sign and asking for handouts, these friends have a ready-made response. I invited this couple (who have been married for 50 years) to breakfast to invite them to share wisdom they’ve learned about how to be successful in life, work, and the kingdom. This idea of the “homeless bag” was just one of many wise gems they shared with us today.

    Another friend, Clare De Graaf, recently wrote a book called “The Ten Second Rule” where he shared his strategy to act within 10 seconds of encountering a need or a prompting of the Holy Spirit. He said, you don’t have to think you have it all figured out. Just do the next thing you’re reasonably certain Jesus would want you to do in this situation. He discovered that if he didn’t respond within 10 seconds, he could rationalize it away or forget about it.

    I love the Good Samaritan account, which you mentioned, because the Samaritan encountered a need, got off his donkey, and did what he could to help the man.

    Sometimes all we need to do help is get up off of our…um…donkey…and take one simple step of obedience.

  4. Good reminder! I think prayer is definitely the biggy. That’s what seems to align our heart with the Lord’s and makes us people who are aware of whats happening around us. Just having our antennas up is huge.

  5. Great tips on how to be a good neighbor! I am fortunate to currently have good neighbors and have had many good neighbors in the past. And I consider myself a pretty good neighbor, although I know I could be even better in this neighbor relationship thing, so thanks for the reminder.

  6. Rich,
    I read the Ten Second Rule last month and would definitely recommend it as well. Thanks for sharing the homeless bag idea.
    When I interviewed a generous giver for my book he said he always buys double what he needs when the grocery store has something on sale. In his experience God always provides an opportunity for him to help someone with what he purchased.
    I think you just gave me a great post idea so I need to start writing …

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