The Good Samaritan

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The Good Samaritan

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In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.
American King James Version×
we read: “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (American Standard Version).

The apostle Paul here tests our love quotient on three levels:

    * Does your love only speak eloquently without being ratified by deeds?
    * Is your love purely an intellectual concept?
    * Is it merely a photo opportunity or a show to get applause?

News-making acts of philanthropy and self-sacrifice are merely that (news-making), if they are done from ulterior motives and not from genuine love. As the saying goes, “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.”

Take a fresh look at the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 Luke 10:25-37 25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said to him, What is written in the law? how read you? 27 And he answering said, You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself. 28 And he said to him, You have answered right: this do, and you shall live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said to him, Take care of him; and whatever you spend more, when I come again, I will repay you. 36 Which now of these three, think you, was neighbor to him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus to him, Go, and do you likewise.
American King James Version×
). The parable demonstrates the principle of true godly, unconditional love. It also teaches us that God is more impressed with our living the law of love than merely believing or preaching it. The Gospels record two men coming to Christ on different occasions to inquire of Him the way to eternal life. One was a rich, young man (Matthew 19:16-22 Matthew 19:16-22 16 And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 20 The young man said to him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
American King James Version×
) and the other was a legal expert (Luke 10:25-29 Luke 10:25-29 25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said to him, What is written in the law? how read you? 27 And he answering said, You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself. 28 And he said to him, You have answered right: this do, and you shall live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?
American King James Version×
).

What must I do?

When we compare both passages, we see some startling similarities and differences. The first thing we notice is that both men had the same question: “What must I do to gain eternal life?” But while the young man genuinely wanted to know the answer, the lawyer was just trying to test or try Jesus.

The second thing we see is that Christ showed there is only one way and that was to keep God’s commandments! (See Matthew 19:17 Matthew 19:17And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
American King James Version×
.) Notice in Luke 10:26 Luke 10:26He said to him, What is written in the law? how read you?
American King James Version×
, Jesus answered the fool according to his folly by essentially saying: “You are the legal expert. What’s your interpretation of the law?” The lawyer correctly summarized the law as love toward God (Deuteronomy 6:5 Deuteronomy 6:5And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
American King James Version×
) and love for your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18 Leviticus 19:18You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
). The young man, like many elusive Christians today, wanted to know which of the Ten Commandments were relevant for him to keep.

A third point to note is that while the young man realized there was a need to do more than just keep the commandments, the lawyer sought to justify or acquit himself from personal responsibility to his fellow man. He did this by attempting to engage Christ in semantics on the word “neighbor” (Luke 10:29 Luke 10:29But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?
American King James Version×
). Jesus went on to explain in Matthew 19:21 Matthew 19:21Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
American King James Version×
two extras steps required to gain eternal life:

   1. Self-sacrifice (“sell what you have and give to the poor”).
   2. Self-denial and commitment (“come follow Me”). Mark, in his account, adds: “Take up the cross, and follow Me” (Mark 10:21 Mark 10:21Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said to him, One thing you lack: go your way, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
American King James Version×
).

This is the same commitment we are called to make when we decide to follow Christ (Luke 14:26-27 Luke 14:26-27 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
American King James Version×
, 33).

At the end of this discussion, we see both men fail the test of true discipleship. The rich, young man failed because he was too materialistic. His priority was misplaced on his wealth. The legal expert failed because he was legalistic. He preached the word but did not practice it. That is hypocrisy.

Who is my neighbor?

In the concluding part of the story in Luke 10:30-37 Luke 10:30-37 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said to him, Take care of him; and whatever you spend more, when I come again, I will repay you. 36 Which now of these three, think you, was neighbor to him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus to him, Go, and do you likewise.
American King James Version×
; Christ followed up on the legal expert’s question about who was defined as his neighbor. Christ magnified the law by using a parable to explain who is a neighbor and how we should show love to our neighbor. In this familiar story a man is robbed, beaten and left for dead on the roadside. A priest passed by and avoided him by crossing the street and continuing on his way on the other side. A Levite came by, looked curiously and then walked right on by too. But a Samaritan came by, picked up the unfortunate crime victim, took him to a hotel and took care of him.

This story should make us ask ourselves some soul-searching questions. Am I like the priest, (who completely avoided the victim) when I see someone in difficulty? His was an apathetic attitude of noninvolvement. Perhaps he was too busy, concerned with what he viewed to be more important matters. Maybe he just considered himself too good to get his hands dirty with the blood of a wounded stranger.

The Levite was a typical curiosity-seeker. He just wanted to see who or what was suffering but had no interest in helping. His behavior is so typical of many motorists on our highways who are more intrigued with looking at a mangled car in a ditch than they are in stopping to see if or how they can help the unfortunate fellow motorist.

Fortunately, not everyone is like this. Jesus used a most unlikely character, a Samaritan, as the one who showed what it is to be a good neighbor and to love. People from whom we expect the least oftentimes give the most. Those who have been victimized and later shown compassion are usually more apt to identify with others who are suffering.

The Jews despised the Samaritans. Yet it was this despised and rejected Samaritan who came to the rescue of the crime victim.

Show love in deed

In telling the parable of this humble Samaritan, Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever on how to love your neighbor by practicing compassion toward a stranger in need.
He practiced love firsthand. He didn’t love at a distance or through an agency. He took personal responsibility for this victim in need. He went the extra mile by not only caring for him overnight in the inn, but also making arrangements to pay any additional expenses incurred for his extended care. That is true godly, unconditional love and compassion in action!

We have all heard stories of good Samaritans. We probably even know people who have risked life and limb to help others in distress. We may have even been good Samaritans ourselves at one time or another. Still, there are three important lessons we can learn from good Samaritan situations:

    * Don’t refuse to help when you are able (Proverbs 3:27 Proverbs 3:27Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it.
American King James Version×
).
    * Never assume someone else will do it. Take personal responsibility.
    * You may suffer for doing well, but it is truly worth it (1 Peter 3:17 1 Peter 3:17For it is better, if the will of God be so, that you suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 5:10 Matthew 5:10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×
).

Next time you have an opportunity to serve someone in need (a motorist in distress on the highway, a person under a cloud of depression, a friend in a financial bind, a single parent being overwhelmed by a rebellious child, a stressed-out coworker…) what will your reaction be? Will you be the religious law-speaking type or the proactive law-living type?

The message of the parable is very clear: Being a good neighbor and showing love by doing, are more honorable than merely speaking about love. Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inaugural address: “In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this nation [the United States of America] to the policy of a good neighbor.” Jesus’ instruction to us is simple, yet profound: “Go and do likewise!”
 

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