Parable of the good Samaritan

(Luke 10:25-37) On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" {26} "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" {27} He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" {28} "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." {29} But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" {30} In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. {31} A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. {32} So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. {33} But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. {34} He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. {35} The next day he took out two silver coins 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.' {36} "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" {37} The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Application of the parable

Are we too busy to help others?

The parable tells us that the victim was first spotted by the priest and the Levite but they chose not to help and passed by on the other side. There could be many reasons why they decide not to help but I would not be surprised if they told themselves that they were too busy. And they were not just busy, they were busy with God's work!

There are those in church who are busy serving the Lord. This is good. But when a person we encounter needs our help, are we too busy to help? If we are too busy to help, we are too busy.

Jesus was busy with many things. Yet I am often amazed that he did not turn away people. When someone comes to him with a desperate need, he is always willing to lay aside his tasks and help that person.

That does not mean that we burn ourselves out helping every single person who needs our help. Some people's problems are beyond our ability and best channeled to someone more capable to help. Some people are just "crying wolf" and should not be allowed to waste our time. But our life would indeed require reflection if we have no time to help anyone at all.

Were there any people who have approached you for help but have been turned down because you have been too busy. Is your ministry in church making you so busy that you do not have time to help?

Don't choose who you want to help

When Jesus told the expert of the law that he has to love his neighbor, the man asked Jesus who He was referring to by "neighbor". He asked that question because he wanted to justify himself (verse 29). In other words, he knew there were people he does not want to love and wants to justify to himself that they are not really his neighbors; therefore it is alright not to love them.

Jesus told the parable but despite the length of the story, it did not answer the man's question directly. The purpose of the parable is to answer the question "Who acted like a neighbor?" and not "Who is my neighbor?". The way Jesus turned the question around is of great importance. When we define who would qualify to be our neighbor and who would not, we immediately decide who we should show love and kindness to and who we need not. But if we decide to be a neighbor, then we no longer need to define who our neighbor is. We show love to everyone.

Jesus not only told the parable to teach that we should show love to everyone, He seem to deliberately choose the Samaritan as the kind person. Why? Doesn't He know that the Jews hate the Samaritans and would have nothing to do with them? (John 4:9) Of course He does. He wants to show that even though the Jews hate the Samaritans, and the Samaritans would naturally be resentful, that Samaritan is still kind to the Jew. In other words, be kind to even those you hate or those who hate you.

Is there someone you find difficult to love? Picture that person in your mind. Don't read on until you have at least one person you find harder to love than others. Next tell God that you want to be a neighbor to this person. The next point will tell you how to show love.

Show love by meeting felt needs

The Samaritan showed love to his neighbor in a tangible way. The robbery victim needed one thing - medical attention - and the Samaritan gave that to him. Would it be strange if he stoops over the Jew who is bleeding to death and thinks he needs a good haircut. Yet we often go about doing all kinds of "kind deeds" to people without first asking if the kind deeds are targeted at their felt needs. To a rich and lonely person what is most important is friendship, not more gifts.

Since you have already identified that person whom you find hard to show kindness to, take the next step and ask yourself what that person's felt need is.

Show love by meeting needs in a tangible way

The Samaritan did not go over the Jew and prayed for his healing. He attended to his wounds. Prayer is good but when we use it as an excuse not to do anything, it is bad. Sometimes we meet someone with a need which is well within our means to help and because it appears so unkind to do nothing, we just tell that person we will pray for him, as if that alone will make the person feel better.

James warned us about the same thing when he wrote,

(James 2:15-16) Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. {16} If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

If our friend in need knows that we are able be help in a tangible way but choose only to pray instead, he will be disgusted. That is why a common excuse for people not to become Christians is that Christians are hypocrites.

After asking what that person's felt need is, determine how to meet that need in a tangible way.


Meeting a person's needs often comes at a cost

The good Samaritan met the needs of the victim at high cost. He had to give up his time. Possibly he could have been late for an appointment in which case his reputation is also at stake. Later on, he had to give up money, which he gave to the innkeeper, so that the victim would be looked after.

Many of us have the desire to help others. But once we start doing it, we begin to realize the high cost and quickly want to quit. But it is often impossible to meet someone's needs in a tangible way without some kind of costs.

Jesus met our needs for forgiveness of sin by paying the highest price of His life. This gratitude should motivate us to be willing to pay a cost for meeting others' needs, knowing that whenever we are kind to others, we are indirectly being kind to Jesus.

(Matthew 25:37-40 NIV) "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? {38} When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? {39} When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' {40} "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

We need compassion before we will help others

The parable told that the priest saw the victim and walked the other side. The Levite also saw the victim and walked the other side. But when it came to the Samaritan, he saw the victim and took pity on him. Without compassion, it would be so difficult to help others. With compassion, it would be so difficult not to help.

Jesus could help so many people in His lifetime because He had compassion on them.

(Mat 9:35-36) Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. {36} When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

I cannot but help think of Mother Theresa when I think of compassion. This is one lady who could help so many people, by depriving herself of so many things, because she had compassion. She cannot bear to turn her back on anyone who went to her for help. And that compassion first came to her when she experienced an elderly lady dying in her arms because no hospital would treat her as she had no money.

An example of someone without compassion is Jonah. When God asked him to preach to the city of Nineveh, he refused to do so because he did not want the city to repent. When he was finally forced to preach in that city, Nineveh repented causing Jonah to be angry with God that He could be so compassionate.

Do we have compassion? If we don't, showing kindness to others and meeting their felt needs will make us miserable. If we don't have compassion, ask God for it. Tell God we want a dose of His compassion so that we will willingly help others.