We are familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan. We know that this Samaritan helped the stranger. But what can we learn from this parable, and what does it have to do with eternal life?
First, let's notice the context, which starts in Luke 10:25. A lawyer approached Christ to test Him, asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Christ then asked the lawyer what was written in the law (verse 26).
Notice the lawyer's answer in verse 27, "So he answered and said, 'You shall love the L ord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"
Christ then told the lawyer that he answered correctly, and by doing these things he would have eternal life (verse 28). But now comes the rest of the story. Now we can see what the Good Samaritan and eternal life have in common.
In verse 29, the lawyer asked Christ, "And who is my neighbor?" Why did he ask this? He asked that "wanting to justify himself." Why did he want to justify himself? Because he wasn't loving all people as himself!
The entire point Christ was emphasizing in the parable that followed was that everyone is our neighbor, and we are to treat them the way we want to be treated! Then, if we practice this in our lives, we will have eternal life. Let's now look at this parable and see how we measure up.
A man (most likely a Jew) is traveling down the road and gets robbed and beaten half to death. There he lies in terrible need. A priest and a Levite come down the road and see him. They deliberately cross over to the other side of the road so they will not have to confront him (verses 30-32). These two people—being representatives of God—should have gladly helped the man. After all, they could probably tell he was a Jew, just like them. But they avoided him. Why?
How Do We Treat People in Need?
Do we avoid people in need? Do we think, "Someone else can help?" Do we make excuses not to help? Do we think, "I don't have time to stop." "It might be a trap, I could get robbed." When we think this way, we are thinking like the world, not God (though, of course, God wants us to use good judgment).
Notice 1 John 3:17-18, "But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."
James 2:14-17 says, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."
While traveling back from the Feast this year, we stopped at a restaurant. When we returned to our vehicle, a man and woman stopped us asking for some food to eat. Trying to be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove, I offered to go with them inside and buy them something to eat, rather than just give them money they might use for something else. We talked while we waited inside, and when I paid for their food I proceeded to leave.
When I got to the door another person inside the restaurant stopped me and told me that this couple does this frequently, and they were just getting a free meal. So, if I did get taken, was it shame on me? Would it be better to be taken for a few dollars, and the couple be filled, or to deny someone who was genuinely hungry?
The reality is, sometimes we will get taken advantage of. Is this reason to not help? Christ said to give to those who ask without turning away, and to pray for those who despitefully use you (Matthew 5:42, 44). We must not be like the priest and Levite who passed by on the other side. We must stop and help, as the Samaritan did.
Moved With Compassion
Continuing the parable in verse 33, the Samaritan saw the man in need and had compassion on him. How much compassion do we have? Peter tells us to be compassionate and tenderhearted (1 Peter 3:8).
The Gospel accounts are full of Christ being moved with compassion. Some of the good works Christ did because He was moved with compassion include casting out demons, raising dead loved ones to life again, feeding 5,000 people and healing diseases, to name a few. In fact, we are told in John 21:25 that all the things that Christ did could not be written down in all the books in the world! How many of these things were done out of compassion?
Compassion can be spontaneous. One doesn't always plan to have compassion; sometimes it just happens. The actions that follow are based on that compassion. The Samaritan saw the man in desperate need, had compassion and acted.
It is interesting to note that the Jews despised the Samaritans. And the Jewish religious leaders would not help their own, but it took an enemy to come and offer assistance. Christ said in Luke 6:35-36, "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful."
The Samaritan then bandages the wounds, places the hurt man on his animal (which means the Samaritan walked), took him to an inn and stayed with him (verse 34).
Think for a moment. The Samaritan was on a journey, saw a need and stopped to help. The help he gave interrupted his journey. He lost at least one day helping this man. The Samaritan made sacrifices.
Do we think we don't have time to help? If we are the lights of the world, what will these people remember when their eyes are opened to the truth? Will they think highly of us for helping when we didn't have to, or will they remember that we did not help? Christ commanded us, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). How are we doing?
The next day the Samaritan gave the innkeeper money to help take care of this recuperating man (verse 35). The parable says he gave two denarii. A denarius was a day's wage for a laborer. So the Samaritan gave two days' wages for the continued care for this man. Apparently the Samaritan was known to be good on his word, as he told the innkeeper that any extra spent he would repay.
Are we afraid to spend our money on a complete stranger? Do we forget that God can make all grace abound toward us, that whatever we spend God can and will bless us more (2 Corinthians 9:8)? What excuses do we come up with to keep from helping others? It's easy to help a friend, but why do we hesitate to help strangers?
"Go and Do Likewise"
In verses 36-37 Christ asked the lawyer which of these three were the man's neighbor. The lawyer answered the one who showed mercy, the Samaritan. Christ then answered, "Go and do likewise." Remember, this parable is about actions needed for eternal life, specifically loving all people as yourself. This is why Christ said, "Go and do likewise."
The man in need was a complete stranger to the Samaritan, yet he helped him. God told ancient Israel that, "The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:34). Paul encourages us to do good to all people when we have opportunity, as this will lead us to eternal life (Galatians 6:9-10).
We do need to be careful about who we help. There are people who pretend to be needy, only wanting money to support their drug or alcohol habits. There are two principles in this parable that can guide us in helping others.
The first point is, You help someone who cannot help himself. The injured man was in desperate need when the Samaritan arrived. Many people hold signs asking for help, when they can help themselves if they would only try.
The second point is, Help as you are able. The Samaritan was strong enough to lift this man on his animal. If the Samaritan was elderly, he could have gotten help for him. Today, cell phones make this even easier. Help can also include buying some groceries for a family having a hard time making ends meet. Help can be fixing someone's vehicle that they could not normally afford to do. Help can be buying a winter coat for someone. We are able to help in many ways if we don't limit the possibilities.
Caution does need to be used when stopping and helping someone broke down. Look at the situation. Does anything look out of place? Many times trusting your gut feeling is the best thing to do. Try pulling up beside their vehicle with your doors locked, and ask them through the window what help they need. Ask for God's protection as you stop to help. Don't be afraid to help, but use wisdom.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is about a way of life. We are to love everyone that we come in contact with—friends and strangers—and treat them the way we want to be treated. We are to help in whatever way we can, including sacrificing our time and money if necessary. We are to do this all the days of our lives. God promises that He will not forget the good we show to others (Hebrews 6:10).
When Christ returns He will separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). The sheep are the ones who saw needs and took care of them, like the Good Samaritan. The goats are those who did not help others, like the priest and the Levite. Let's be the ones fulfilling the two great commandments—loving God, and loving our neighbor. Let's be the sheep on Christ's right hand, and let His words be said to us: "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." UN