Do you consider yourself a Good Samaritan? How do you respond to a person asking for help on the street corner? How do you respond to that family member or friend who needs help yet again? Do you find yourself, when faced with these situations, rationalizing why you should not help?
I was reminded recently of the need to “love your neighbor as yourself” in my studies for our Endanger Relationship series message on “Good Bridges Make Great Neighbors!” The story of the Good Samaritan was in response to the “lawyer (expert in the law) that was testing Jesus. He questions Jesus on what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks Him what the Mosaic Law teaches. The man responds with a quote of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, “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.” (Luke 10:27) Jesus responds, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:28) And then Luke says this, “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
The phrase “desiring to justify himself” stood out to me. It appears that Jesus response to live out these truth brought conviction in his own heart. So, instead of saying Lord I struggle with this can you help me, he asks Jesus a question to justify not fulfilling this requirement of Scripture. So Jesus shares the story of the Good Samaritan. What stood out to me in this story is that those that you would expect to help did nothing while those you did not expect to help did everything they could. Now the text does not reveal what the Priest and the Levite were thinking but I think it is safe to assume that they would have to justify or more specifically rationalize not helping. Maybe they thought that the man got what he deserved for traveling in the wrong part of town? Maybe they did not have the time because of an appointment? Maybe they did not want to get dirty by helping the man? Maybe they just did not care. It hit me that these men, who were supposed to be examples of mercy, were really no different than the robbers that did this to the man. They were looking out for themselves. Now it is just a story but I am reminded that how often I rationalize not helping others in need. The truth is that when I do this I am no different than these characters in the story or even the lawyer that was “desiring to justify himself.” The sad reality is when I fail to help, I fail to act like Jesus.
The Good Samaritan on the other hand would have been the person you have least expected to help and yet he did. I am reminded that when faced with an opportunity he acted. I also see that he was willing to sacrifice for those in need. He sacrificed his time (ministering immediately and caring for the man overnight), his resources (wine, oil, using his clothing for bandages and paying the inn keeper). And he was not afraid to get dirty (lifting that man onto his animal would have ruined his clothes).
I believe this passage challenges the follower of Jesus to be not like the religious that make excuses and pass on by but to be the Good Samaritan by ministering to those in need of help. So are you a Good Samaritan?
-Pastor Joe Parkinson