Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Good Samaritan

Hump Day Hmm

"There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

"A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I'll pay you on my way back.'

"What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?"

"The one who treated him kindly," the religion scholar responded.

Jesus said, "Go and do the same."
Luke 10:25-37, New International Version

Several days late, this parable from the Bible is my contribution to the Hump Day Hmm-er.

As I thought about the people in my neighborhood, I knew that all I could really write was about how litte I know about my neighbors. I know about half the names of the people living on my street. I talk to a few of them. We aren't close. We don't hang out in the front yard shooting the breeze. It's been eleven years and I don't really see it changing.

But, as I pondered the subject, the story of the Good Samaritan came to mind. The ultimate neighbor story, I think. The word Samaritan has an entirely positive connotation for most people. But there was a time, let's say around the time that Jesus was alive, when hearing the word Samaritan did not bring up warm fuzzy images of helping others. No, the Samaritans were outcasts. They weren't accepted. That fact is what makes this story revolutionary for its time. The people who were looked up to and respected in Jesus' circle had no mercy. The man who would not have been spoken to by these respectable, religious men--they might even have crossed the road to avoid contact with him--he helped the man in need.

I hope that in my life I can embrace being the kind of neighbor Jesus talked about. To the world, I might be considered one of those respectable, religious people. I am not an outcast. I go to church. I'm a leader in my church. I never want to be so busy, so puffed up with myself, though, that I pass by someone who needs my help. I hope that I can have the Samaritan's heart, one that will go out to others, not only to stop and help, but go above and beyond in doing what I can for others.


Julie Pippert said...

I think that's a good point.

And I've been thinking a lot about expectation, of self and others.

I haven't got the answer, I'll admit it.

But the question is this: is it the every day that matters, and must we be extraordinary in our assistance to others every day, or is it the times of need that matter...and how do we juggle that with what we individually need and what our family's need?

I have friends who every single day go out and give something to someone. Some days, I notice they feed the community while their own families starve. Some days I notice how much it means to someone that this person is there.

I know people who don't find much value in themselves because they don't do much every day or big.

The Samaritan's act is hard to put in context. He passed by the man. He was already on the road, he wasn't called at home and asked to set something aside or find childcare, go out across the city to the country and help this person.

We have no idea if those silver coins were a fortune or merely pocket change.

We have no idea why the two religious men hurried past.

This is often the trouble with parables: the context is hard to place, so I wonder how we can wisely apply this lesson.

Is there never any legitimate excuse from turning away from need?

I know when I stretch out and seek need, I am overwhelmed by it. It makes me want to turtle.

Perhaps the lesson is simply, if you walk past need and can ably assist, you should.

Perhaps the lesson also is to not do so at too high a cost, to yourself and family. But that part isn't in there and inherent in that is the typical Protestant/Catholic guilt through feeling as if we don't give enough, ever, and not acknowledging the many different ways to give.

You know?

The constant call to help invokes guilt in those of us who do try and do contribute, and falls on the deaf ears, I think, of those who don't.

So those of us giving try to give more, sometimes too much.

Am I making any sense here? LOL

Mary-LUE said...


You are right about having to be careful about parables. The stories illustrate a point and that can be hard. How far do you take it?

For me, these are my takeaways:

1. The people you would expect to act, didn’t.

2. The person who was considered worthless by the audience to whom Jesus was speaking, did act.

3. Your neighbor isn’t necessarily the person who is like you, from where you are from, etc.

4. Mercy can be shown by anybody.

I also think the description of the Samaritan’s heart going out to the traveler is important. The implication would be that the other two didn’t have that response. It is possible to be moved and try to help but not have money to set the guy up, etc. It is the heart being open and moved by what is around you which matters more. You do what you can, the widow's mite and all that, at least, that is how I read it.

And I do think you are right about preaching to those already sensitive to it. If you are not ready to hear a story like this (ready not implying there is no responsibility on your part to be ready) then you are just not going to get it. For those who already embrace this point of view, I think reminders are good check points. Am I being open? Am I too focused inward? A little inventory of sorts.

Thanks for the thought provoking comments!

Anonymous said...

I've always thought that was a beautiful story. And your thoughts on it are equally so. I remember reading a joke about how you know you're in the 21st century when you talk every day online with someone in South Africa but you don't know anything at all about your next door neighbor.

painted maypole said...

per Julie's question, the 2 religious men hurried by because to touch a bleeding man would make them "unclean" for their holy rituals. Jesus was also making the point here that taking care of someone's needs take precedence over the rules of what is acceptable, once again trying to break the religious leaders free of the strict adherence to rules at the expense of truly helping others.

And yes, the story is about helping people who are not like us, people who are supposed to be our enemies. Saying that the Samaritan, a person who was reviled by the Jews, was acting in a more Godly fashion than the religious leaders who hurried by, too busy and concerned with following rules and protocal to help.

The Samaritan was on his way somewhere. Clearly stopping to help was an inconvienience. And he came back to check on the injured man. Surely that was not in his day planner.

Emily said...

Julie's comment makes me think about the saying "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Perhaps we are just obliged to do as much as we can. Often, giving in one way means taking somewhere else. For example, if I am constantly out doing charity so that my kids never see me, I am doing one kind of good and one kind of bad. Or, if my child has allergies so I run central air even when it is only warm, I am defiling the environment and actually making the air quality worse, perhaps exacerbating another child's asthma or allergies. If charity begins at home, must I take care of my family's needs 100% before thinking about those outside my walls, or do I think about my family first but never exclusively?

Kimmie said...

hmm, seems to me that you'd be a most excellent neighbor...its a matter of heart.

mama to 6
one homemade and 5 adopted
come meet us...we're adopting again!

Anonymous said...

I love your choice of this parable for this, Mary.

To Emily's question, I would choose to make sure that my family has what it NEEDS, and then think about others. I certainly don't live this way, because we definitely live to excess; however, I'm trying.

In the relatively short time I've been reading Julie, she's shared the concerns she brings up here. I don't suffer the guilt - I just try to do the best I can, both unbidden, and when "disaster" strikes. I don't think major personal sacrifice is required by each of us to be charitable.

mcewen said...

I've not heard of Hump Day - I shall need to investigate further.

We're pretty pally with our immediate neighbours, now that they adjusted to the shock!

Being puffy doesn't last very long around here as there's always someone standing by with a pin.