As we continue studying Luke 10:25-37, we meet the namesake character in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
Luke 10:33-35 NIV
Here comes the next person in this parable – maybe the star of the story. He’s not somehow more righteous than even a priest or Levite. He’s not even a Pharisee or Jewish expert in the law. He’s a Samaritan.
Now, I might not have to tell you how much the Jewish people hated the Samaritans. If you’ve been in church for long enough, you’ve probably heard plenty of illustrations about how great the racial divide was between those two groups in this era. (If not, I’m sure that there’s plenty of detail online about this rift.) Furthermore, it seems that Jewish and Samaritan people had both done things to propagate this animosity by the time that Jesus shared this parable in the first century [ref. Black, p.201-202].
Have we really thought about what it would have been like, though, to hear something good said about someone who was so opposed to our own society (or our little slice of society)? Are there people who you really, really don’t like, today? Let’s be honest, there is still plenty of hostility in our world today: between black and white, between Democrats and Republicans, between Christians and Muslims, between ethnic groups, countries, regions. In fact, there’s animosity between people who are divided by things that are much less important than those.
To be clear, I’m not saying that each of us is guilty of hatred in all of those ways, but I suspect that we have been angry at some other group at some time. And, not just angry, but furious at them for weeks, months, or years. That is the kind of person that Jesus used in this illustration for his audience.
And, the help that the Samaritan provides isn’t just checking in to see if the other guy is OK. (It’s true that sometimes I ask if someone needs help, but I hope that they will say that they’ve got everything under control, so that I get credit for being nice but don’t have to do anything!) The Samaritan goes the extra mile, making use of his resources (oil and wine), transporting the victim to somewhere that he can recover, and paying two days’ wages up-front to provide help for someone that he apparently just met.
As Mark Scott wrote in the Lookout (cited below), “Mercy can be so messy at times.”
So, just like there were questions for us to answer in earlier articles’ texts, are there people who are suffering, and who God has called us to help, but for whom we have chosen to not step up and do something?
Remember the priest and the Levite who just “passed by on the other side”. Sometimes that’s all that we do in order to not be a neighbor to a fellow human being in distress.
Are there hungry people in your town who need help? Are there those who don’t have enough clothes to wear (or whose clothes aren’t so old, battered, and torn to take away basic human dignity)? Are any of our neighbors hurting because they have an injury or disease, or because they are lonely and lost?
Now, at this point, I don’t know about you, but my initial reaction is to make excuses. I’m tempted to say things like, “Well, some of those people got themselves into their own problems.”, “It’s probably their own fault”, “I can’t help everyone, can I?”, “Someone else will take care of those problems (maybe the government)”, or “I have my own loved ones – and myself – to take care of”.
If any of those same thoughts encroach into your mind, I want to come back to the situation that this Samaritan was in: he encountered a person who clearly needed help and he had the ability to help. I don’t see God necessarily calling us to do things for others that we aren’t able to complete, or to spend lots of money that we don’t have on others. Of course, we know that God can help us accomplish goals well beyond our human capabilities, but I think that being a neighbor is often about opening our eyes to those around us who have needs, and following God’s leading to help them (rather than making excuses about why we can’t).
So, has God placed someone in your life who needs help, and who you can help? That is, if you have the means and the opportunity to do good, do you have the motive to do so? I think that is at least part of what Jesus meant when He confirmed that we should love our neighbor.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for May 1, 2022
- The Lookout, May 1, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.