What do we owe our neighbor? We can measure that answer when we assume our neighbor is needy. This was the standard found in the book of Exodus. We are to treat the poor and the stranger with compassion. We are to treat our peers in need as equals. In other words, we are to treat everyone as children of God.
The Lord said to the people:
20 He who sacrifices to any god, except to YHWH only, shall be utterly destroyed.
21 You shall not wrong an alien, neither shall you oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
22 You shall not take advantage of any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you take advantage of them at all, and they cry at all to me, I will surely hear their cry; 24 and my wrath will grow hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
25 If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor; neither shall you charge him interest. 26 If you take your neighbors garment as collateral, you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down, 27 for that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What would he sleep in? It will happen, when he cries to me, that I will hear, for I am gracious.
96 was a hymn of praise that extended beyond the parochial view of the Temple in Jerusalem. This was a song that encouraged praise from all people to the God of all.
1 Sing to YHWH a new song!
Sing to YHWH, all the earth.
2 Sing to YHWH!
Bless his name!
Proclaim his salvation from day to day!
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
4 For great is YHWH, and greatly to be praised!
He is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but YHWH made the heavens.
6 Honor and majesty are before him.
Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to YHWH, you families of nations,
ascribe to YHWH glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to YHWH the glory due to his name.
Bring an offering, and come into his courts.
9 Worship YHWH in holy array.
Tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, "YHWH reigns."
The world is also established.
It can't be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice.
Let the sea roar, and its fullness!
12 Let the field and all that is in it exult!
Then all the trees of the woods shall sing for joy
13 before YHWH; for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
the peoples with his truth.
1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
The early Christian community at Thessalonika had a sterling reputation of faithfulness. Unlike the churches at Corinth or Galicia, the Thessalonians did not suffer from heresy or cliques. They were focused. St. Paul recognized that their reputation had an evangelical value. How we conduct ourselves, especially with others, can help spread the Good News.
5c You know what kind of people we were when we visited you. We were there for you! 6 And you became just like we are. Just like the Lord is. After all, even in great turmoil, you accepted God's word with the joy only the Holy Spirit can give. 7 All the believers in Macedonia and Acacia look to you as examples. 8 Because of you, God's word has rung out, not only in Macedonia and Acacia. Your faith in the Lord has spread everywhere. So, nothing more needs to be said about your example. 9 What we've heard about you tells us how you welcomed us and how you rejected old ways to believe. Now you serve the living and true God. 10 Now you wait for his Son to return. God did raise Jesus from the dead. And, Jesus will save us from the trouble that will soon be here.
5c You know what sort of people we became among you, for you. 6 You became imitators of us and the Lord, welcoming the word in much distress with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to everyone trusting (the Lord) in Macedonia and Acacia. 8 For from you, the word of the Lord has rung out, not only in Macedonia and Acacia, but your faith in the Lord has gone out everywhere, so that we do not have need to say anything (about your example). 9 For (the reports) about you (explicitly) relate what sort of welcome we had among you and how you returned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, 10 to await his Son from heaven whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, the One saving us from the coming wrath.
By itself, the Great Commandment was not original with Jesus. Jews sought a hierarchy of commands from the Law, and the first command would interpret the others. The combination of Deuteronomy 6:5 ("Love the Lord...") and Leviticus ("Love your neighbor...") predated Jesus. The question of Pharisees meant to test the orthodoxy of Jesus. However, Jesus gave a traditional answer, but his application of these verses were revolutionary. Love of neighbor meant concern for the needy, the outcast, and, above all, the sinner.
Jesus argued about the resurrection of the dead with the Sadducees. 34 When the Pharisees heard Jesus won the argument, they went as a group to Jesus. 35 One of their experts on the Jewish Law tried to trick Jesus into saying something wrong. 36 "Teacher," the expert said, "What is the most important command in the Jewish Law?"
37 Jesus answered, "'Love God with all the feeling in your heart, with all the energy within you,' and with every thought in your mind. 38 This is the most important command. 39 The next in importance is just like it. 'Love everyone like you love yourself.'"
40 "The entire Bible depends on these two commands."
34 But, the Pharisees, having heard HE silenced the Sadducees, gathered together on the same ( . . . ) 35 And he posed a question, one of them, a scribe, pressuring HIM, 36 "Teacher, what command (is) great in the Law?" 37 The ONE said to him, "'You will love the Lord in your whole heart, and in your whole soul', and in your whole mind. 38 This is the great and first command. 39 The second, however, is like it. 'You will love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commands, the entire Law hangs and the prophets (hang)."