The Good Samaritan

painting depicting the good samaritan

Luke 10:25 – 37:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

And he answered, “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.”

And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

The lawyer stood up and addressed Jesus respectfully, but we also get a look at this person’s intentions. He really sought to test Jesus. His answer is full of pride rather than humility. The lawyer’s actions and intentions do not exactly align, and that speaks to the moral of the parable Jesus shares with him. In this parable, Jesus focuses on the heart, which then answers the lawyer’s questions.

Unhelpful Self-Justification

In this story, we have a traveler on a steep road, taking the roughly fifteen-journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. The region surrounding Jericho was rocky and inhospitable, and it was a refuge for thieves. The traveler falls victim to such individuals, and he’s stripped of all identifiers. He’s a nobody on the side of the road.

This unfortunate man is then passed by three individuals. The first is a priest, who might have been made unclean if he intervenes. It would be a huge hassle for the priest to help. It might have been unsafe to help. Then came a Levite who would have also faced the problem of safety. He might have seen the priest turn aside and was filled with doubt about whether or not he should help the beaten man. Furthermore, if he stays to help, might another person happening by think that the Levite had hurt the man?

Defeating or Fulfilling Good Intentions

Do you see how dwelling on excuses and justifications can defeat good intentions? Both the priest and the Levite would be considered holy and righteous people, but they turned away when the situation got too awkward or difficult. So instead, it’s a Samaritan who risks his safety and reputation to help the man. He treats the man’s wounds with oil and wine (symbols of the priesthood) and carries the man to safety on his own animal. Then, the Samaritan selflessly gives of his own money to care for the man.

The priest and the Levite were just as bad as the thieves in terms of how harmful they were to the victim. The thieves harmed him through violence. They harmed him through inaction. We have opportunities every day to be like the Samaritan, but we might make excuses to be inactive. In those cases, we are the Levite and the priest in this story. We cannot get too caught up in the reasons to not help — reputation, safety, finances, personal convenience, or any other justification we can invent.

To be like the Samaritan, we must first be willing to see the need around us. We must lift up our eyes to see what needs to be done. Then we have to be willing to sacrifice of ourselves to get it done. It may be as simple as giving up time or money, or it could mean giving up more. But the point is that we take that step toward helping. We may never get the credit we feel we deserve. We may reap no rewards, but we are more like Christ when we lay aside our excuses and help.

lesson by Donn Koonce