Day 3: The Good Samaritan should be every Christian!

Have you ever heard the story of the Good Samaritan?  I’m sure you probably have.  But is it just a story to you, or has the power of what Christ is saying through it changed your life?

You

$50 will provide fishing nets and other gear, and $500 will provide a boat.  We share the love of Christ through what we say and what we do, just like Christ Himself did.  Jesus didn’t just say He loved it, He proved His love for us by everything He did in His life, and ultimately in His death on the cross, and resurrection & return to “cut the ribbon” for the opening of His spiritual Kingdom.  When we follow Jesus, we need to tell people about Him and we need to share His love with them.

Pastor Douglas Wilson really got me thinking about the following, as he narrates the story in Collision[1].  The atmosphere in which Jesus told this story: Jews and Samaritans have been compared to whites and ‘bi-racials'[2] in the South.  Samaritans were seen as “half-breeds” because of their mixed ethnicity heritage.  As Douglas Wilson points out, when Jesus told this story, it would have been every bit as stunning as if Jesus was telling a crowd of whites in Alabama about a white man who got hurt and the KKK pass him by, but a ‘bi-racial’ man helps him.  That’s how offensive this story would have been.

In a re-enactment of the Good Samaritan I saw recently[3], the Jewish people are all smirking as a Samaritan man passes by, struggling with his donkey and a heavy load.  One of the smirking, religious (and in this portrayal, wealthy) Jewish leaders saunters up to Jesus and asks half jokingly what he needs to do to go to Heaven.  Jesus answers him in a way that would have been expected–and ending that the man should love his neighbor.

The man comes back with a sly, off-the-cuff question about who his neighbor really is.

Jesus proceeds to tell a story.  In this re-enactment, the wealthy man who is flippantly asking these questions pictures himself as the man who is robbed and left half-dead by the side of the road.  As the story is told, the kinds of people the man would expect to help him . . don’t.  At the end, the enemy he holds in such contempt, the scorned Samaritan, comes along and makes great sacrifices to save him.  He leaves his load of possessions in the desert so he can put the man on his donkey.  He pays for all the man’s care.

As Jesus closes the story, He asks a question,

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The religious man is shown again in this portrayal, but this time he is a different man.  No longer feeling coy, an expression of shock and humility is on his face as he says his last statement.

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

And then Jesus ends with the statement that stays with us even if we try to drive it away,

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37, NIV)

We don’t know whether the man who asked Jesus the question changed his heart and followed Jesus . . but by his last response to Jesus, we can have hope that he did.  For us, though, a question remains.  Do we understand who our neighbor is?

A gift of $20 can buy a pair of rabbits or help pay for a pig or other small livestock.  We joke about rabbits multiplying, but now I know why God gave them that ability!  They can provide nutrition and income for people in impoverished countries, and they are inexpensive to feed.  Yay for rabbits!

Do we get that every time we give help to someone, our positions could have been very easily reversed?  Do I realize that I could have been the woman in India whose face has been burned away because my family didn’t pay a high enough bride price[4]?  Do I realize that I could have been the child coming from the Muslim home who will only hear about Jesus if a church center is open[5]?  Do I realize that I could be the ninety-something-year-old in the nursing home who can’t remember her name, but knows that no one ever comes to visit her[6]?  Do I realize that I could have been the child abandoned on the street in China because I’m a disappointment as a girl[7]?  Do I realize that I could have been the teenager standing outside the Planned Parenthood, wondering whether to go in or stay out[8]?

Today’s mission-in-focus is Samaritan’s Purse, named in honor of the good Samaritan of Jesus’ parable.  (And really, as the portrayal I watched showed by having the same actor play both Jesus and the good Samaritan, the Outcast who rescues us is the story of Jesus and His compassion for us, who hated Him.)   Samaritan’s Purse is such a huge ministry I’ll only touch on the work they do as good Samaritans for Christ Jesus.

A video about aqua and more than aqua 🙂

Samaritan’s Purse

A video about chickies and more than chickies 🙂

Bibles and Christian Literature

From Samaritan’s Purse: A $15 gift can provide five (5!) New Testaments, three (3!) Bibles, or other Gospel materials for those we help in impoverished communities, refugee camps, disaster sites, and hospitals. (Wow!)

Credibility of the Mission: This is a well-known, worldwide ministry headed by Franklin Graham.  Financial accountability information can be found freely on their website here.  They are also EFCA accredited and the information can be found here.  Donations are tax deductible as a qualified 501 (C) (3).

A video about fishies and more than fishies 🙂

As believers we are doing unto Christ when we help others.

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 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.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37, NIV)

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[1] Collision DVD, 2009, with Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson

[2] “The Good Samaritan” from Great Bible Stories, Volume One.  Bridgestone Multimedia Group, 2011.

[3] The term ‘bi-racial’ in this blog is used to convey a concept that people used to have, and some still have.  But I do not believe anyone is ‘bi-racial’.  We are all one race, Adam’s!  I could have said ‘mixed ethnicities’ or ‘multi-ethnic’.  First, that is not how the majority of whites in the South thought, and the point was that Jesus was offending the daylights out of the prejudiced people of His own ethnic group of that day!  Second, it’s pretty ridiculous to say ‘mixed ethnicities’ or ‘multi-ethnic’.  I’m multi-ethnic; you’re multi-ethnic; we’re nearly all multi-ethnic here in America.  Really, speaking of people as “black” and “white” is not only ridiculous because no one is either a) black or b) white, but also because it is as arbitrary as saying “brown-eyeds” and “blue-eyeds” and “green-eyeds”.  For more information, see Answers in Genesis’ DVD, Only One Race.

[4] This example came from Agni Raksha, India.  A ministry of Wellspings International (headed by Ravi Zacharias daughter, Naomi Zacharias) helps provide these women with surgeries they need to repair their faces.  25,000 women are burned each year in India from a cruel, outlawed custom of burning a bride if her family cannot pay the price set by the groom.

[5] This example came from experiences I have had through Compassion International.  I have a child raised in a Muslim home in Bangladesh.  Compassion centers provide children with a safe place for extracurricular activities & receive a healthy snack, caring adult mentors to help safeguard them from and watch out for signs of abuse and neglect, and a place to learn about Jesus Christ.

[6]  You can make a difference in the life of a senior adult.  It doesn’t matter whether they recognize you or not.  It matters that you are there.  Visit a friend or family member, or volunteer a few hours a month at a nursing home or assisted living center in your community.

[7]  China’s current policy, and the traditional values of preference for boys over girls, places infant girls at risk to be aborted or, if they are birthed, abandoned.  I have friends who have adopted girls from China because God has laid it on their hearts.  It’s not an easy process . . or an inexpensive process . . but the blessing is unimaginably worth it if God has placed this on your heart.

[8]  Pregnancy Care Centers try to stand in the gap for women who would never go to a church for help with their unplanned pregnancy.  PCC’s offer accurate information on choices, allowing women to make a more informed decision.  There is a misconception that PCC’s coerce or manipulate women into having their babies, but don’t care anything about the women.  As a mentor at a PCC center, I can tell you this is slanderous and false.  First, PCC’s offer choices, not forces.  At my PCC, for example, a girl who received help from our center and chose to have an abortion said that she would refer her friends to our center, because she was treated so well.  Second, PCC’s, if they have adequate funding, offer services to women throughout their pregnancy like mentoring, classes, referrals for community resources, and needed items like diapers, baby wipes, baby clothes, etc.

See Copyright Page for Bible Translation information.

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Two days pay . . . and much more

I don’t think of what I get paid in days.  I don’t even think in weeks.  I think in months.  This is because I get paid in months.  And if I wanted to know how much I made in a week, or in a day, I would have to divide.  Not that I don’t know how to divide, but, really, who likes to divide when they don’t have to?

But I got to thinking about my salary in days because, as often as I’ve heard the story of the good Samaritan, and even since in the past few years I began reading my Bible . . . I always casually acknowledged the part about two days pay without even thinking about it.

“A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:30b-37, NLT)

Thinking about silver coins didn’t mean much to me, because I guess I was thinking more of “silver” coins today: nickels, dimes, quarters.  Sure, I knew the silver coins were worth more than a couple quarters, but it didn’t seem like much.

One denarius (plural denarii)

The actual currency was denarii.  Having nothing to equate denarii to, I guess I had in my mind something like ten dollar bills.  But I’m without excuse to think such a thing, because I had read, I don’t know how many times, in the footnotes of Bibles, that a denarii was worth about a day’s wage for a common worker.

I never stopped to think about how much a day’s wage actually is.  The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable spends two days salary on a total stranger.  That’s not spare change.  That was a commitment that would have thrown his entire monthly budget off.  Something–or maybe many somethings–would have to be given up to give this money for lodging and care to a total stranger.

And scarier still than losing two days pay, this Samaritan assigns himself the financial responsibility of covering the man’s needs, if they were beyond this.  That’s a frighteningly open arrangement.  He doesn’t say he’ll cover the bills if they are one denarius more or up to five denarii more–he simply promises to cover the expenses!

And that’s not all.  The Samaritan used his own olive oil and wine on the man.  It wasn’t as if he could go to Wal-Mart to buy more.  Pouring these ointments out on this total stranger, the Samaritan was denying them to himself and taking away from his family’s provisions.  He would either have to come up with money to purchase more wine and olive oil in the city–and that would have been even more difficult since he had just given two days pay away–or he would have to wait until harvest time, if he was a farmer.

As olive oil had to be pressed from olives, wine had to be pressed from grapes.  Olive oil and wine represented work–hard work–and this Samaritan gave them away to a total stranger.By reading the Bible (like 1 King 17:11-14) we learn that olive oil was necessary for bread, and bread was a meal staple.

But the Samaritan went beyond giving his money and personal provisions.  This man also gave his time.  Having no cell phone to call for an ambulance and no ambulance to come anyway, the Samaritan led a wounded man on a donkey while walking on foot was slow.  And this was the same dangerous place the wounded man had been robbed and beaten.  Walking on foot wasn’t just time-consuming: it was risky.  He had no donkey to flee away on if another band of robbers showed up.  The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was known to be dangerous[1], so this was no easy path.

So this Samaritan gave away his money, his provisions, his time, and he even risked being in the same predicament as the wounded man.

But now here is probably the most amazing part of all: the Samaritan helped a man who was most likely prejudiced against him.  The Jewish man most likely hated Samaritans and saw them as “half-breeds”, because that was the popular thinking of the day.  The Jewish people would often go out of their way to avoid routes that led by Samaritan villages.  So for this Samaritan man to help this Jewish man, he had to overcome his own feelings of injustice and rage.

Some people might have been proud of themselves just for not kicking this Jewish man while he was laying on the ground.  But the Samaritan not only doesn’t take an opportunity for revenge, his heart immediately drops any bitterness, any spite, and he begins to help this man out.  Whether or not he felt like helping the man, this Samaritan overruled all his negative emotions in favor of doing right.  He practices mercy, not because he has a special kind of ability others don’t have, but because he chooses to.

This Samaritan had no cell phone, no ambulance, and no insurance or Medicare to cover the wounded man’s medical bills.  And he had no reason to help a man whose people group hated his people group.  In fact, he had just about every excuse in the world not to help.

Yet he helped anyway.

Jesus taught that this man is the neighbor.

Not because he came over to borrow a cup of sugar, or because he waved at his neighbor every time he was at the mailbox, or because he participated in neighborhood watch, or because he bought the kid next door’s cub scout popcorn one year.  Jesus said this Samaritan man was the neighbor because he had the courage, the willingness, the generosity, the patience, the humility, and the mercy to help a total stranger.  In other words, this Samaritan man loved his neighbor.

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:25-37, NLT)

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[1] The pastor at my church gave a sermon on this once that encouraged me to deeply investigate this parable rather than just thinking I already “knew” it.  How gracious God is, and how patient!

Photograph of denarius by Daniel R. Blume, http://www.flickr.com/people/drb62/

Photograph of bread and olive oil by Charles Haynes, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/haynes/

Photograph of grapes by Or Hiltch, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/orcaman/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Who is my neighbor?

One time when I was a young kid, my family was on vacation in a big city . . . and we accidentally drove into a ghetto.

I wasn’t that worried about it, but everybody else in the car was terrified.  They seemed to believe somebody was going to come up to our car and attack us.  I looked around the ghetto we drove past with new eyes, panicked that we were all going to be killed.  The people weren’t people to me anymore.  They were scary creatures out to get me.

Looking back on this, I realize I was right with my first reaction, and not with my second.  The people who live in that ghetto . . . are people.  And drawing a sweeping conclusion that people are out to get you just because they live in a ghetto . . . that’s just ridiculous.  You could live in a mansion on a hill and be killed by your own butler.

Going back to that day, I don’t have to wonder what would have happened if we’d driven by a woman lying on the side of the road, beaten unconscious.

We would almost certainly have driven right by.

When we got to our hotel, we would have called the police, of course, but never would we have gotten out in the middle of that ghetto, carried that unconscious woman to our car, and driven her to the hospital.

Not with all the dangers around us.  It could have been a trap.  She might not really have been unconscious.  Or it could have been the act of a gang, waiting to spring on us the moment we opened our car doors.

Help her?  No way.  Way, way too scary.

Many people are familiar with the story of the good Samaritan, or at least of the cause named after the person.  But we usually miss the terrible danger within this parable.

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The story of the good Samaritan was told by Christ.  During His life on earth, Christ was a teacher, and people would walk up to Him and ask Him questions.  Sometimes they asked questions because they really wanted to know the answers.  Other times they asked questions to try to trip Him up.  (Not much has changed since then, actually!)

One man, an avid reader and religious sage, walked up to Jesus to ask what he needed to do to get into Heaven.  Sounds like a good question to me!

The problem was, the man wasn’t really asking a question.  He really just wanted to prove to everybody listening that he already was going to Heaven because he was so good!

When Jesus answered him, the sage seems, from my understanding of the story, to get excited.  In his mind, he thinks he’s just proven he has earned eternal life—but he wants to make sure everybody in the crowd knows it.  So he asks a little, bitty easy question to show everybody how good he really is . . . or so he thinks.

I think the answer Jesus gave him left him stupefied.

And a lot less sure he had Heaven ‘in the bag’.

An expert in the Law of Moses stood up and asked Jesus a question to see what he would say.  “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus answered, “What is written in the Scriptures? How do you understand them?”

The man replied, “The Scriptures say, `Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’  They also say, `Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’ “

Jesus said, “You have given the right answer.  If you do this, you will have eternal life.”

But the man wanted to show that he knew what he was talking about.  So he asked Jesus, “Who are my neighbors?”

Jesus replied:

As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbers attacked him and grabbed everything he had.  They beat him up and ran off, leaving him half dead.

A priest happened to be going down the same road.  But when he saw the man, he walked by on the other side.

Later a temple helper came to the same place.  But when he saw the man who had been beaten up, he also went by on the other side.

A man from Samaria then came traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him and went over to him.  He treated his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them.  Then he put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.  The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, “Please take care of the man.  If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return.”  Then Jesus asked, “Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?”

The teacher answered, “The one who showed pity.”

Jesus said, “Go and do the same!” (Luke 10:25-37, CEV)

WOW.

Jesus says the neighbor is the person who gets out of his car, in the middle of a ghetto, to help somebody in need.

WOW.

Someone could say, “Hey, wait a second, that’s not fair!  Ghettos are way dangerous and this man in the story was just lying on a road!”

This is where we miss the danger of this story.  The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a scary one[1].  Jerusalem was (and is) a religious mecca.  After people had traveled there, they might go down to Jericho to vacation or for business.  So this road was a thief magnet.  Thieves would wait for travelers to come by so they could prey on one.

Because clothes were so expensive, thieves would often take the clothes right off somebody’s back.  The thieves in this parable leave the man beaten and naked in the middle of the road and probably go off to sell his clothes and spend his money.

Notice that the three people who came by did not see what had happened.

This would be like driving down a dangerous road and suddenly seeing a man lying across one lane, naked and bruised, the other lane empty.

In this parable, the first two people who passed by the beaten-up traveler went around.  In today’s world, it would be switching lanes.  They went down the clear lane.

Although the priest and temple helper are very religious . . . they don’t have much trust in God or feel responsibility to Him.

They don’t trust that God will protect them if they stop.

And they don’t feel responsible to help.

So they go on by.

Of course they didn’t have cars, but I bet they probably had donkeys and weren’t on foot.  To stop and help would be to dismount—get out of the car.  They would have had to kneel down, pick up the wounded man, and carry him on a donkey—which has no driver and passenger’s seat, by the way—to the nearest hotel.

Can you imagine all of the reasons the priest and temple helper could have given for their decision to ‘drive on by’?

This was dangerous!

It could be a trap!

They could lose temple money—religious money!!!—if they got robbed!

Traveling with a stranger on their donkey meant they would have to walk on foot, practically a shout-out to any more robbers in the vicinity!

The stranger might not even be a ‘good’ person!  Who’s to say how he got on the side of the road?  He might have been a drunk or even a robber himself, having been robbed by other robbers!

We tend to think that the religious people who went on by the man would have been embarrassed if their congregation had found out about it.  But I think actually they might have been just fine with it!

After all, they had so many reasons not to help!  They might have even used the man as an example in a sermon of the sad state of the world without ever feeling bad about going by!

After all, they did not believe a neighbor was some unconscious stranger you meet on the side of the road one day!

This parable must have stunned the religious leaders and the disciples and the crowds that listened to Jesus.  Because Jesus opened up the word ‘neighbor’ from meaning someone living on either side of your house to anyone in the world!

This parable might have triggered an immediate memory in the religious sage’s mind—the one who had asked Jesus the question—of all the times when he had been on his way somewhere, seen a person in need . . . and walked (or rode) on by.

Through this parable, Jesus showed this religious sage that he had zero chance of getting eternal life on his own.  What the sage had intended to be an opportunity to show off his goodness had turned into a conviction to look at his badness.  He saw, probably for the first time in his life, that he was not a good neighbor.

When we think of neighbors, we usually think of people we live nearby.  We don’t think of people who live in the bad part of town . . . in a scary apartment complex in Chicago . . . in cardboard houses in Los Angeles . . . in a Cuban prison . . . in a slum in Mexico City . . . in a Kenyan village . . . on the streets of New Dehli . . . in a tent in Mongolia . . . in a Haiti refugee camp . . . in temporary shelters in Japan . . .  people we can so, so, so easily go around.

But Jesus refuses to give us permission to go around.

Who is my neighbor?

Everyone is my neighbor.

Then Jesus asked, “Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?”

The teacher answered, “The one who showed pity.”

Jesus said, “Go and do the same!” (Luke 10:36-37, CEV)


[1] My pastor taught a sermon on the Good Samaritan recently, and explained this.

Photo by Isawnyu (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/isawnyu/, website http://isaw.nyu.edu/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.