By Meg Bucher, Crosswalk.com
“‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” Luke 10:36-37
It’s easy to assume no one in modern society would pass by someone ailing on the side of the road. But we can all recall a time when we witnessed someone pulled off to the side of the freeway … alone. We so often don’t pull over to help. Sometimes, out of a healthy fear of very real and opportunistic evil in the world. Other times, we choose not to put ourselves in danger on account of another accord. Further still, we are all consumed by the amount of time we have in each of our days. The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us to take time to notice, and inconvenience ourselves to stop and sacrifice our precious minutes and resources to love our neighbor the way we’re called to as Christians. God has purposed us to love one another.
Who Is the Good Samaritan in the Bible?
“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
The Good Samaritan is a character in one of Jesus’ New Testament Parables. When questioned by a Jewish lawyer who he should consider a neighbor, Jesus picked a Samaritan to be the heroine of the story. This is significant because Jews hated Samaritans. The NIVSB confirms, “Jews viewed Samaritans as half-breeds, both physically and spiritually. Samaritans and Jews practiced open hostility, but Jesus asserted that love knows no national boundaries.”
As Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, he said, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (John 4:22) The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says “Samaritans believed in the one God of Israel and claimed to be true heirs of his promises …(they) rejected the history of Israel after Joshua, and changed the Ten Commandments to include the requirement to worship on Mount Gerizim …” which the Judeans (Jewish) destroyed. The Samaritans believed in God but didn’t fully understand and know Him. Jesus rebuked them for what they got wrong, but all the more powerful when we consider the love the Samaritan man showed versus that of the priest and Levite who fully understood God and could call themselves God’s chosen people.
Why Did Jesus Tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan?
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher’, he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” Luke 10:25
Jesus taught in parables and communicated in a way they understood. People like the lawyer questioning Jesus were akin to answering inclinations with questions. Thus, Jesus replied to his inquiry with,“‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’ Luke 10:26 His concern was for their souls, not in arrogantly winning an argument He already held the heavenly victory too. His compassion for those who questioned Him is possibly one of His most remarkable characteristics. He had the patience to honor their curiosity, even when deviously tried to trap or trick Him. “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29
The priest and the Levite passed by the suffering man on the other side. Significant, because Jesus illustrated living a legalistic life and following religious rules is nothing if we purposefully pass by a hurting soul. Love is leveling. Anyone can choose to help someone. Jesus shattered their perception of class and division by illustrating that love is love. We aren’t called only to love other Christians or others like us. We are called to love … period.
How Can Christians Apply This Parable Today?
Here are 5 ways Christians can use this parable for inspiration today.
1. Be Noticers
“We live in a fast-paced world where it is easy to overlook the needs of others,” wrote Courtney Whiting, "But if we learn from this parable, we will be careful to be aware of those who are around us.” We can take notice of the people God places in our lives, both those who encourage and help us and those who need our help and encouragement. “The neighbor we’re called to love is often not the one we choose but one God chooses for us,” writes Jon Bloom “In fact, this neighbor is often not one we would have chosen had not God done the choosing.” Scripture says the man on the side of the road appeared dead, a condition that would make a religious authority ritually unclean (Leviticus 21:1-3). The priest in the parable let his holiness hold him back from helping. “He didn’t want to be stained by the stuff of life,” writes Pastor Rick Warren, “When we live a lifestyle of avoidance, we try to keep all our relationships superficial. If we can keep everyone at arm’s length, we can pretend we don’t see their pain and their needs. If we don’t get involved, we can avoid getting hurt or inconvenienced.”
2. Prayerfully Prepare for these Moments
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you-‘ when you already have it with you.” Proverbs 3:27-28
A disciplined life of prayer will allow to see people from God’s perspective and fight any fear holding us back from taking immediate action. “Pray for people,” wrote Anne Dahlhauser in “10 Ways to Love Your Neighbor," “Ask God for love for your neighbors.” When we pray for eyes open to see people in need, God is faithful to reveal them. When we do take notice of someone in need, it’s not just our action that needs to be immediate in aid, but our prayer. It's only humanly possible to help someone to a certain extent, so we need to cut God into the moment through prayer. Vaneetha Rendal Riser reflects in her article, “How to Pray When Life Falls Apart,” “I need to remember his limitless power when my situation looks insurmountable.”
3. Don’t Hesitate
“In Christ we are given a right standing before God (justification), and we are propelled in love for God and others by the new power of his Spirit in us (sanctification),” writes Jonathan Parnell, "This affects the way we see those around us.” Instead of weighing our options and wondering if we have time to stop and help, trust God to stretch minutes when we are convicted to help. The Samaritan man wasn’t prepared with a medical kit in case he crossed paths with someone who needed bandaging. He gave of what he had, choosing to invest in the struggling stranger. “We may quote scripture and recite platitudes on love and God, but unless we are willing to get involved in the lives of others, we are only blowing smoke,” wrote Joe Plemon, “But he [the Good Samaritan] didn’t. As the scriptures say, he had compassion …and he acted on it.” Given the man was robbed, the Samaritan probably put himself in danger of meeting the same fate. “Love is something you do,” writes Pastor Rick Warren, “Love doesn’t just say, ‘I’m sorry for this guy. Isn’t it a shame? Isn’t that too bad?’ Love seizes the moment.”
4. Reflection and Gratitude
Resist the cultural urge to frame those struggling as soft or weak. Suffering from the consequence of their own decisions doesn’t afford us a license to love them any less. We’ve all made bad decisions, suffered through our own consequences, or been hurt at the hands of another. Let gratitude for the people God had in place to pull us through fuel our love for them now. Remembering keeps us humble, reminds us to be grateful, and spurs us to pass it on. Instead of convincing ourselves we don’t have the time or the means to help, focus prayerfully on allowing God to show us how He wants us to love those suffering around us. John Bloom wrote, “if our restlessness is due to the disillusionment of having to deal with difficult, different people and defective programs, then perhaps the change we need is not in the church community but in our willingness to love our neighbors, the ones God has given us to love.”
“It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:21
Christians are called to live generous lives, both in meeting the physical needs of others and in our outpouring of compassion for our neighbors. The Samaritan man gave what he had. We are all too often led by a cynical mindset of short supply. However, God promises the more we share the more we have. Proverbs 14:31 says, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Benching worry to care for others first models trust in God. He asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves and is the great Provider we can trust in to make it happen. Proverbs 28:27 assures us, “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” The goal is not to get something in return for helping one another, but trusting God enough to let go of what we have in order to do so, being a good steward of what He’s provided us with.
10 Bible Verses About Loving Our Neighbors
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the enters of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3:8
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25
“Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you’- when you already have it with you. Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you.” Proverbs 3:28-29
“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” Romans 15:2
“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31
“honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 19:19
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12
“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
A Prayer to Love Others
Jesus, Not only did you come down to earth and live among us, but you choose to communicate on a level we can understand. Thank you for parables and stories we can apply to our daily lives, in order to understand a mere fraction of Your glory. We are humbled by your forgiveness and grace for the times we do indeed walk clear around those who need help. Convict us to stay alert, in prayer, and ready to love those You place in our paths.
In Your Name, Amen.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Jan Wijnants [Public domain]
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ as an author, freelance writer, and blogger at Sunny&80. Her first book, “Friends with Everyone,” is available on amazon.com. She earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters. Besides writing, she leads a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. She lives in Northern Ohio with her husband, Jim, and two daughters.