The Parable of a Shameless Neighbor, by Katie Snipes Lancaster
He also said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’ Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness. Luke 11:5–8
Reflection: In small villages in the ancient near east, scholars indicate that everyone knew everyone’s business, and therefore your neighbor would have known if your pantry was full or not. The amount of bread needed to feed a family was fairly precise math, and in a world of scarcity and not abundance, there would be no leftovers going bad in the fridge. All was accounted for, every last calorie.
Not only that friendship in the Greco-Roman culture was paramount. For example Aristotle says, “a noble person does all for the sake of their friends…and if need be, gives one’s life for their friends.” One does not simply ignore their friends request for help, even if that request comes at midnight. Your future is at stake when it comes to the give and take of ancient friendship because one midnight-snub and for the rest of your life you’ll be labeled as the guy who wouldn’t share bread with strangers.
This parable is hemmed in by Jesus’ instruction on prayer. In the verses prior, Jesus teaches us the Lord’s Prayer. In the verses to follow, Jesus says, “I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Given the context of this parable within the gospel of Luke, and the historical context about bread and friendship, it seems that Jesus is pushing us to be assertive in prayer. When you need bread, ask God. When you need health, seek God. When you need help, knock on God’s front door. Be confident in prayer. Assured. Bold.
Bread of Life,
May we come to you
in friendship and need.